"Police For America"Seeks To Use Elite Graduates To Patrol Underserved Communities
AP) Backed by money contributed from the Gates Foundation and other wealthy donors, the organization Police For America has recently grown from a small non-profit to a prestigious entity that elite college graduates from around the country are angling to get on their resumes. PFA has responded to the spike in crime in poor communities by providing them with recent college graduates to work on their police force for two years. PFAers get six weeks of training in criminal justice over the summer before walking the beat in the fall.
While some have criticized the readiness of PFA cops and questioned their lack of experience, PFA maintains that their graduates are the best and brightest of their generation. As one spokesman said, "Our graduates come into the police force with much higher credentials than regular officers, and bring their drive and will to succeed with them. Any issues with police work they can easily learn on the job. Anyone who has ever had contact with the police and watched a lot of television shows understands all to the basic stuff, anyway. Who wouldn't want the future leaders of this country patrolling their streets?"Some cash-strapped mayors in cities like Trenton, New Jersey, where hundreds of PFA cops were hired right after massive lay-offs of traditional police, agree.
While most PFAers leave the force after two years to work for the likes of Goldman Sachs, a select few have used their time in PFA to claim high-level positions in law enforcement. This has proved especially controversial in the case of former Washington, DC, police commissioner Michael Lee, who once was caught on camera duct-taping shut the mouth of a suspect in the back of his squad car while working as a PFA cop. Although Lee lost his commissioner position after local opposition and near-mutiny by police officers in the wake of his policies, he has used the backing of wealthy foundations to advocate for "police reform" across the country, calling forcefully for privatization of the police in many communities. "We have too many failed police departments in this country that need to shut down," Lee asserted at a recent $2,000 a plate fund-raiser in Manhattan.
Critics point out that high crime areas need experienced officers the most, and that six weeks is not enough time to prepare novice officers for the level of difficulties they must face. They also point to statistics showing that PFA cops do not have superior arrest records or performance evaluations. As far as the PFA cops themselves are concerned, however, they are very positive about their experiences. Kyle Wilker, a Harvard graduate and Stockton, California, PFA officer noted that "This is a win-win for everyone. I have the experience I can use to get a job on Wall Street, and this town has more people patrolling the streets. And how lucky are these people to have a Harvard grad on duty?" When asked whether he would ever come back to Stockton after leaving PFA, Wilker went silent.
The murder rate in Stockton has not gone down under the PFA-heavy force, but Wilker isn't worried, "The old way of policing wasn't about to be challenged by the veteran police officers stuck in their ways. We are part of a wave of innovation, thinking outside of the box, and embracing the new normal. I'll get back to you on the specifics at some other point."