Professional Policing: The Police in the US Need To Become a Profession

(this article about professional policing was taken from and expands upon this Twitter thread)

The US Does Not Current Have Professional Policing

We need to stop calling the police a profession until they become one. There are certain basic standards that professions require. Unfortunately, current US police work doesn’t qualify.

Professions require a significant investment in education and regular continuing education. Teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and other professionals all require at least a Bachelor’s degree. By contrast, the current average training for police officers in the US is 21 weeks.

This is not what professional policing looks like

Professional Policing Requires Ethical Standards and Accountability

Professions maintain a code of ethics at the national and state levels. Further, they have enforcement at the state levels. By contrast, there is no standardized, specific code of ethics for police in the US. While many towns have one, they are not standardized or required. We can’t have professional policing without a code of ethics.

Professionals hold each other accountable. There is no “thin blue line” in social work or nursing or law. If I harm a client and a fellow social worker knows, they must report me. This is in stark contrast to police practice.

Professionals have authority over others. They are bound by that position of authority not to abuse their power. However, police have actively worked for decades to be free from oversight and accountability.

US Police Don’t Meet Minimum International Standards

In other words, structurally the police in the United States are not a profession and we should not coddle their pretenses of being one. Reform of the police needs to start with a set of national standards and state boards. We should look to the policies of other countries for ideas and inspiration. In addition, we should look at international standards. The ICRC (International Center for the Red Cross) has a set of standards that is a good start. Currently, US law enforcement doesn’t come close to meeting these standards.

How Can I Make Professional Policing a Reality?

No matter who you are, there are things you can do to support improving policing standards in the US:

  • Contact Your Senators and representatives even if you think they don’t care. They need to hear from constituents who disagree with them.
  • Show up at local protests. If you can’t, make signs for the protests, or cook food for it, or support in another way.
  • Talk with your friends about the benefits of professional policing. Teach them how it would benefit them.
  • Engage with people who disagree with you on social media. Come armed with facts and patience. You’ll need both.

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Jennifer Liles is the owner and webmistress for Jenni's Space and Responsive Mental Health Services LLC. She is dedicated to mental health and human rights for freaks, geeks, and queer folk. She uses the Jenni's Space label for places where she combines education about, advocacy for, and celebration of mental health and human rights. This information is primarily for neurodiverse people, people with mental health issues, people who are on the queer spectrum, disabled people, and Black and Indigenous and other people of color. There are also discussions for privileged people about privilege and how it intersects with human rights work.