An inside look at how police officers are trained to perpetuate state violence.
Michael Brown. Philando Castile. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. As the names of those killed by the police became cemented into public memory, the American public took to the streets in unprecedented numbers to mourn, organize, and demand changes to the current system of policing. In response, police departments across the country committed themselves to change, pledging to hire more women and people of color, incorporate diversity training, and instruct officers to verbally de-escalate interactions with the public.
These reform efforts tend to rely on a “bad apple” argument, focusing the nature and scope of the problem on the behavior of specific individuals and rarely considering the broader organizational process that determines who is allowed to patrol the public and how they learn to do their jobs. In Before the Badge, Samantha J. Simon provides a firsthand look into how police officers are selected and trained, describing every stage of the process, including recruitment, classroom instruction, and tactical training.
Simon spent a year at police academies participating in the training alongside cadets, giving her a visceral, hands-on understanding of how police training operates. Using rich and detailed examples, she reveals that the process does more than test a cadet’s physical or intellectual abilities. Instead, it socializes cadets into a system of state violence. As training progresses, cadets are expected to see themselves as warriors and to view Black and Latino/a members of the public as their enemies. Cadets who cannot or will not uphold this approach end up washing out. In Before the Badge, Simon explains how this training creates a context in which patterns of police violence persist and implores readers to re-envision the future of policing in the United States.
Praise for Before the Badge:
"A must-read for anyone who thinks we can fix American policing with more training."
― Alex S. Vitale, author of The End of Policing
"This book presents brilliant theoretical insights that aid in comprehending the underlying factors contributing to police harassment and violence, revealing the hidden facets of racialized punitive social control."
― Victor Rios, author of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys
"This trenchant study of the institutional origins of police violence deservers a wide readership."
― Publishers Weekly
"A troubling, nuanced report on the way American police academies train their graduates in the use of force."
― Kirkus Reviews
"This is an incredibly important and timely book that should be required reading for policymakers, advocates, and the public interested in prospects for police reform."
― Becky Pettit, author of Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress
"Simon has crafted a richly detailed, emotionally intelligent, and historically informed account of how human beings are transformed into cops."
― Jarrod Shanahan, author of Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage and co-author of States of Incarceration
"Simon compellingly shows the violent ethos that shapes the selection and training of cadets, and police organizations that embrace a worldview that pits the police against the public."
― Jennifer Cobbina-Dungy, author of Hands Up, Don't Shoot: Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter, and How They Changed America