One of the unknowns in trying to understand “police use of lethal force” was the background, education, etc. of local police officers. So I spent an hour Thursday visiting with officers at “Coffee with a Cop” at Ikea’s restaurant. This was a followup to the class I recently completed at U of M OLLI with Connie Osterbaan, a retired research criminologist and adjunct professor in criminal justice at the U.
Osterbaan showed videos that put into question the value of body cameras on police officers because the view from the cameras doesn’t give an accurate record of the event. The officers at Thursday’s discussion disagreed and gave enthusiastic endorsements of body cameras as a “fantastic tool providing data that makes police work harder not to use force.”
Some officers graduate from community college law enforcement programs, but one detective said that officers are “poorly trained” and Bloomington city government doesn’t provide enough funds for police training. It will take another 25 years to catch up on police training with emphasis on human traits data, the detective added.
One of the complaints made by Black Lives Matter activists is that police don’t live in the communities where they are employed and therefore may not be involved in community building with people of color. That certainly is true in Bloomington where only a small percentage of the 120 officers on the force are Bloomington residents. Officer McCullough said for him it “is a benefit not living in the city.”
I had an interest in pursuing the police culture topic having served for about a year covering the cop shop for the Idaho Statesman in 1965-66. Unlike my coworker Dave Frazier I was not that interested in law enforcement although I went on a high speed hot pursuit chase with Sheriff Paul Bright in the back seat of his Chrysler Newport squad car. Also I covered a jail break in the Ada County courthouse where officers had their guns drawn. I wrote the initial story on the Billie Butler coed murder in 1965 in Boise.
Bloomington offers a Citizens Police Academy Thursday nights from 6 - 9 p.m. for ten weeks during September 6 - November 8, 2018., but the hour long Coffee with a Cop on Thursday satisfied my curiousity. Their work involves more than giving tickets to speeders on 98th Street. More police attended the Ikea coffee conversation than residents and all were caucasian with a few women officers.
The detective immediately identified me as not a typical resident based on the questions I asked. He observed that a must be a reporter. I told him that I had local government reporting experience with the Idaho Statesman.