(CNSNews.com) – Former Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who served as Orlando police chief, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the challenge in hiring police officers is hiring those with “the right temperament.”
Demings said that for example, out of 40,000 people who wanted to be Orlando police officers one year, they only hired 20 out of that number.
When asked for her reaction to the beating death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police, the former congresswoman said that “as someone who spent 27 years in law enforcement, started out as an officer on midnight shift patrol and served in every rank, served as the chief of police, I’ve seen policing at its best and I’ve seen it at its worst, but what I saw in the video was shocking and appalling.
“The gruesome beating, my heart goes out to the Wells Nichols family, it goes out to his community. You know, and I so appreciate the words from Miss Wells when she not only talked about the gruesome death of her son, but also spoke to the five officers involved by saying that you’ve disgraced yourselves and your own families. So as a career law enforcement officer, I could not believe what I was seeing,” she said.
Host Margaret Brennan pointed out that the five officers charged with Nichols’ death were between 24 and 32 years old and were all hired within the last six years.
“Is this an experience problem? Is this a bad cop problem?” Brennan asked.
“You know, Margaret, it is so important that we look at, as police executives and, you know, there’s not much of an appetite, we know, in Washington, D.C., now to come up with the national standards that I believe are so desperately needed,” Demings said.
“I also question what state legislatures are willing to do, but this falls back now on police executives, our chiefs, our sheriffs, to come up with much needed reforms that start with hiring the brightest and best, having psychological evaluations being a part of that to ensure fitness for duty, and, look, I’m more than familiar with specialized units,” she said.
“Many of them are the results of calls from the community to — for officers to address crime activities in — like drug activity, gang activity, but we have to make sure as police executives that we are putting the most seasoned and most experienced officers in this unit that are well trained and highly supervised,” Demings said.
“So, as I look at the night that went off the rails in Memphis, there are a lot of questions that are unanswered but have to be answered,” she said.
When asked why mayors are having such a hard time hiring police officers, Demings said, “Well, you know, hiring, as someone who has actually hired law enforcement officers, it has always been challenging, not necessarily because of the lack of numbers, but the effort to make sure that we are hiring people who have the right temperament to be able to do the job.
“I can remember in a year having 40,000 people who wanted to be Orlando police officers and it — we ended up hiring maybe 20 of that 40,000, trying to take every effort, every step to make sure that we hired the best person to do the job,” she said.
“And so hiring has always been challenging, but we also, again, police executives have to be creative, not just wait for people to knock on that door, but to go out into various communities visiting college campuses, making sure that police departments do continue to reflect the diversity of the communities that they serve,” Demings said.
“This is a time that we have to be — use new and creative approaches to making sure that we’re bringing in the right men and women. It really starts with hiring, making sure that we are bringing in the right men and women to do the job,” she said.
“Well, I wonder, because I was, you know, reading a piece in ‘New York’ magazine entitled, the end of police reform, and it pointed out in Memphis adaptations had been made since 2020 in terms of mandating de-escalation, banning choke holds. There were body cameras. That wasn’t a deterrent here. The police force is 60 percent black it reported with a black police chief,” Raddatz said.
“Even with these adjustments, this horrific situation happened. So when you hear calls for police reform, what is the piece of reform you think that makes the difference, or is it just recruitment?” she asked.
Demings said that police reform is supporting the police by giving them the tools they need, while also holding them accountable.
Margaret, we have made calls for police reform, especially since the brutal death of George Floyd. Now, let me say this, I was in Congress during the time the George — voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, we know – we all know it was not perfect, but my goodness, I sure believe it was a major step in the right direction.
And I think that too many police executives think that any criticism of the police or any efforts to reform or modify hiring standards, modify training standards, make sure they have the technology that they need to better be able to do the job, calling for national databases and better enforcement, too many people see that as we’re not supporting the police.
Well, I see it as exactly that. Supporting the police, giving them the tools that they need to do the job, but also to hold them accountable, and so, yes, it goes — it’s not just hiring, but it doggone sure starts with hiring.
When they’re in training, making sure that we have the right field training officers who we know set the standard for what’s acceptable and unacceptable on the street.
Looking at — internally at policies and modifying those use of force policies. Yes, the body cameras, think about it, if we did not have this footage, but this situation was so off the rails, and so outside of the box, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done there.
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