Of the various things 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s said during a lengthy media availability on Sunday, the one that resonated the most with many (including me) entailed the comparison of legally-required training for those who are supposed to keep us safe to those who are supposed to keep us looking presentable.
“There is police brutality,” Kaepernick said. “People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it. And they’re government officials. They’re put in place by the government so that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable, make those standards higher.
“You have people that practice law and our lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”
It was an eye-opening claim, one that I had decided on Monday to research: In California, where Kaepernick lives and works, does a cosmetologist have more training than a police officer?
Before I could actually start the project, I received the letter to the 49ers and the NFL from the San Francisco Police Officers Association, and I noticed that the wide-ranging response to Kaepernick’s assertions did not include a challenge to his facts regarding police versus cosmetology training. Which told me that Kaepernick was factually correct; otherwise, the SFPOA would have pointed it out.
Indeed, he was correct. Police officers in California must attend (either before being hired or upon hire) an 888-hour Basic Police Academy, which requires roughly six months to complete. Cosmetologists in California have a 1,600-hour training requirement before they can even take the test required to secure a license.
Regardless of anyone’s opinions regarding the manner in which Kaepernick chose to express his concerns, it’s fair to ask the question of whether the persons on the front lines of law enforcement, making life-and-death decisions regarding themselves and others in the heat of the moment, have sufficient training, education, and overall fitness for this critical job. If they do, great. If they don’t, then improvements are required.
Even though the vast majority of police officers fulfill their obligations professionally, honorably, fairly, and appropriately, some don’t — and the mere fact that they wear the uniform and display the badge doesn’t make them immune from criticism, scrutiny, and ultimately consequences for failing to meet or exceed the standards that apply when deciding whether to protect themselves by using deadly force.