Police Reform Must Start With Holistic Officer Training

Rivard Report

June 24, 2020

By Anthony J. Pogorelc

For years now, as I followed television and online news, I have seen police officers brutalize individuals. Consistently, I have asked myself: Why do they do this? As a Catholic priest who works at the diocesan seminary training future priests, I wonder: How were these officers trained or formed?

The Catholic Church certainly has its problems. The history of sexual abuse and its cover-up is a horror in which those charged with caring for people abused them. One avenue of response by the church was to examine and reform the process of formation for those who aspire to the priesthood.

As a sociologist, I know that formation socializes someone into a culture constituted by shared, socially learned behavior. Reforming a formation process requires a serious examination of the culture and its values. What are we forming aspirants to be a part of? Individual and social change goes hand in hand. Today, it is essential to do this for the institution of policing. Enabling those on the front lines to properly carry out the institutional mission is an essential investment in human resources.

In the church we realized that formation is not only about the acquisition of skills; it is about shaping the human being. In priestly formation, we focus on four dimensions that could also be relevant to the formation of aspiring police officers:

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