In 2007, Georgia was one of the 30 states in the US that allowed officers to be on the police force for up to two years without attending police academy first. While it appears that Georgia’s grace period between training and being in the field has since been eliminated, there is still shockingly little training provided to police officers.
Georgia requires police officers to graduate from an 11-week police academy which includes 408 course hours, over 260 hours less than the national average.
In Georgia, officers only go through four hours of total training in how to do interact with people with intellectual disabilities, substance abuse and mental health issues before going into the field. That’s a little over an hour for each of those incredibly at-risk groups of people.
Compare the just over an hour reserved for training about mental health to the 40 hours of training to use a firearm and 12 hours of training in the use of deadly force. This training is dangerously lopsided. If we expect officers not to see their weapons as their first response we need to offer them additional training about how to work with people with mental illnesses.
Tyler Beck, the police officer that shot and killed Georgia Tech student Scout Shultz, only had about a year on the job. In a “classified performance appraisal record” dated April 2017 obtained through freedom of information laws by Buzzfeed, a lieutenant that evaluated Beck wrote of him, “His weakness are that he is young and is still learning laws, policies, and criminal procedurals.”
Despite these issues, the report said that Beck was “meeting expectations.” Why are we setting our expectations so low? Shouldn’t a police officer carrying a gun know those things before going into the field?
One criticism of Beck was that he had not completed CIT or crisis intervention training, which gives officers the skills to recognize someone in psychiatric crisis and deal with it appropriately. However, the state of Georgia doesn’t require all officers to have this training anyway. In fact, only 22 of the 89 Georgia Tech police officers have received crisis intervention training.
Clearly, there is a major problem with how police officers are being trained before entering the workforce. It’s one of many problems with policing and criminal justice in America that requires serious reform. As a society, we have to demand better.