Bratton's Plan to Learn from Experience

+ Jonathan Stewart

The New York Times reports that Bill Bratton, the New York Police Department’s new commissioner, recently told his top chiefs that the department would no longer send new police officers to patrol the city’s most crime-ridden areas, as has been done under Operation Impact for more than eleven years.

“I want to change the dynamic of kids coming out of the academy and immediately being put into Operation Impact assignments, where they really have an almost single-minded focus and really don’t get a full flavor of the job,” he said, according to a recording of the meeting reviewed by The New York Times.

“I think they would benefit from it, working with officers in traditional precinct assignments,” he added.

In the U.S., police are empowered with an extraordinary amount of discretion. For example, a police officer has the discretion to choose to pull over this driver or that one for speeding and whether to then issue a warning or a ticket. Learning how to appropriately apply that discretion is critical to successful policing. As the article goes on: 

A rookie officer without the proper guidance might stop a group of friends from school hanging out, thinking they are a gang, or give tickets to double-parked cars in front of a Brooklyn church, [a] retired commander said. “A precinct cop realizes that those kids are from the high school and those cars have been double-parked there every Sunday for 35 years,” he said. “You miss the opportunity for a seasoned officer to help you hone all of the skills it takes to be a police officer.”

New officers need experience policing on the street in order to gain the skills necessary to effectively assess situations and apply discrestion in a manner that protects citizens while maintaing strong relationships with the community. They should be partnered with experienced officers who can help teach and guide them as they learn to do their jobs. Regular coaching sessions could also be helpful for reinforcing positive conduct and keeping negative behavior in check. With more police departments equiping their officers with body cameras, video recordings of citizen interactions could provide valuable material for these coaching sessions. 

Tile image by Dave Hosford via Flickr.

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