I interviewed several members of law enforcement for the Ferguson Interview Project. Officer D is an African American police officer who works for the St. Louis County Police Department in North County. We talked about the process by which one becomes a police officer in the St. Louis area. Here is the excerpt from the interview where we touch upon the accreditation that police departments and police officers go through.
In terms of law enforcement…How can we get rid of racist cops? Is it even possible? Am I looking through rose colored glasses? Officer D.: I thought about that, and, you have it both ways because you have black officers who probably hate white people. Or, Hispanic officers who don’t like black people, or whatever. The only way I can think of— if somebody fill out an application, in my opinion, on the application you got to ask them how diverse are they. Now, just because grew up in an all white town, and they didn’t have any black friends, or Hispanic friends, or Asian friends don’t mean they racist. If you can hire people that is more diverse, like, hey, I went to a diverse school, or I grew up in a diverse neighborhood maybe…, but you can have a racist guy that lives— Black people start moving around him he don’t want to move, but he lives around blacks.
Right now, you have polygraphs and stuff like that, the county does a polygraph, and they ask you questions like that to try to ween out— if they can see if…you’re being deceptive about, if you like, if you hate— Say if I was white, and they say, “Hey, do you hate blacks, or do you hate Hispanics, or do you hate Asians or something like that? Then they can see if you’re being deceptive, and maybe they’ll eliminate you from the process. If they’re saying, “Hey, he might have some racist tendencies.” Even black— “Hey, do you hate white people? Blah, blah, blah, blah.” Then, if I’m like yeah I like white people, but it’s showing that I’m being deceptive. Then maybe they ween you out. I don’t know how that process works, but…I was asked.
Like when you took the psych test, they had asked you questions about that, too. They try to ween that out. When you have so many [police] departments in St. Louis County, that doesn’t have the same standards as St. Louis County [Police Department]. In my opinion, I think the state should have a guideline set. For example, I think they’re trying to pass a law now where your department has to be accredited by CALEA (Commission for the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies). St. Louis County is accredited by CALEA, so St. Louis County has a very high standard.
Ninety precent of the municipalities in St. Louis County, doesn’t have a— I mean, we call them muni jumpers. He works for this muni, and then he gets fired. Then he go works for this muni because they paying them seven bucks, eight bucks an hour, and he just want to be a police officer. He doesn’t have the proper training, or the training like he would get with St. Louis County, but he’s still out there being a police officer.
If the state could step in, in my opinion, and make a minimum standard to be a commissioned police officer within the State of Missouri. So much training that you have to do— the department has to have a certain amount of standards, and [the] only way you can do it is CALEA, because they come out every year, and they go though the entire police department. It’s like an audit. County has been— I’m not sure on the years, but ever since I’ve been a police officer, they’ve been accredited with CALEA. That’s the only thing I can think, but—
What on the federal level, can be done to standardize this? Is it really going to be a state’s rights issue to determine the guidelines for acceptable law enforcement policy? Officer D.: I think so, because we’re all commissioned by the state, and not federal. If you was a federal agent, like the FBI, DEA, then they could. Unless they make it a federal law, then the state has to abide by that federal law. But then look at it,…Marijuana is illegally, federal, but then you have states who made it legal.