The Washington Post

Another troubling police recruiting video

A reader sends this recruiting video from the police department in Stillwater, Okla., home of Oklahoma State University. As with the videos in my previous post on this topic, the video opens fast and harsh, with images of cops shooting, confronting and siccing police dogs on suspects. Even as it shifts into somewhat more placid images of the college campus and a discussion of the benefits of the job, there’s comparatively little emphasis on community service.

Stillwater had one murder in 2012, has had two since 2006, and six since 1999. Note that the video includes as a benefit the possibility of joining the Special Operations Team (SOT), or Stillwater’s equivalent of a SWAT team. Here’s the Stillwater Police Department page on SOT, which includes another video with more door-breaking, shooting and general ass-kicking. Note that the tactical team is part-time and that it’s used not just for emergency situations but also for warrant service and drug raids.

Again, these videos are unsettling for a couple reasons. First, they’re basically displays of what the police agencies themselves see as the most important aspect of police work, and violence seems to be the most common theme. Second, consider the sort of person who is drawn to a video about a job that emphasizes violence and confrontation. Now ask yourself if that’s the sort of person we really want to be encouraging to become a police officer.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."

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