Warrior-type training conditions law enforcement officers to fear the people they serve, putting Blacks at greater risk of deadly force, critics say.
Recent high-profile police shootings of African Americans have brought to light the controversial psychological training that teaches law enforcement officers to approach their job as if they are at war, becoming “warriors” ready and willing to use deadly force.
While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached brotherhood, saying, “”We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” fear-based warrior-style training has taught thousands of police officers to view the members of the communities they serve as potential threats which they should be ready to kill.
This conditioning can result in police prone to respond with unnecessary and lethal force, which all too often is directed at African Americans and may well account for many of the deadly police encounters that continue to rock the nation.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) Task Force Against Racism and Modern-Day Eugenics is calling for a total ban on warrior-type training. Task Force founder Rev. Fred Shaw, a former Los Angeles County deputy sheriff and current president of the NAACP Inglewood-South Bay, California chapter, is leading the effort to expose the hidden influence of this type of training on law enforcement and the Black community.
The “warrior” mindset is particularly dangerous to African Americans, thanks to the eugenics movement that instilled racism in the U.S. from the late 1800s on. Eugenics, the doctrine that some races are inferior and dangerous to other races, was instigated and perpetuated by American psychiatrists and psychologists, who continued to provide pseudo-scientific “proof” of Black inferiority right up to the present time. In the past year, both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have admitted the prime roles of psychiatrists and psychologists in justifying and promoting racism in the U.S.
This legacy of racism can feed into the mindset of a police officer conditioned with warrior-type training, so that it becomes yet another in a long line of psychological experiments and programs that end up, intentionally or not, harming African Americans while failing to reduce violence or improve community conditions.
“This training has the potential to reinforce racial profiling that has been occurring since slavery, and we don’t need anything that insidiously reinforces this on our streets today.”
— Rev. Fred Shaw, CCHR Task Force Against Racism & Modern-Day Eugenics
Dave Grossman, a retired lieutenant colonel and former West Point psychology professor, coined the term “killology” and developed this type of training, which has been delivered to law enforcement officers, mental health providers, school safety organizations, and the military for the past two decades, according to his website.
One trainee was Jeronimo Yanez, a Hispanic police officer serving in a Minneapolis suburb, who in 2019 fatally shot Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American man, mistakenly believing Castile was reaching for a gun in his pocket instead of his wallet. Yanez reportedly had attended one of Grossman’s classes, the “Bulletproof Warrior.”
George Floyd’s killing in 2020 by a white police officer turned attention to the training given to officers in the Minneapolis Police Department. “Warrior-style” police training reportedly had been popular with the city’s top police union, which continued to support it even after the mayor of Minneapolis banned it. Floyd’s family referenced killology training and the warrior mentality of police in the federal civil rights lawsuit they filed against the city of Minneapolis, which was settled by the city for $27 million.
Following Floyd’s death, Minnesota governor Tim Walls signed statewide legislation banning warrior-type training. The Minnesota law recognized that such training encourages officers to act aggressively in a way that “deemphasizes the value of human life or constitutional rights.”
In an interview, Cedric L. Alexander, a former police chief and CNN commentator, said: “This whole warrior concept that has no purpose [should] play no role in American policing today. It does not build relationships, it keeps communities and police separated, it doesn’t make people feel comfortable in engaging the police, partnering with police, and it certainly can be threatening.”
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights continues to be concerned with the larger issue of law enforcement relying on psychiatric and psychological practices that include screening, profiling, and training, with psychiatrists and psychologists often embedded in police departments to advise them, but with no evidence of improvement in communities as a result of their involvement. CCHR will focus on making the harms of warrior-type training and other psychological practices known, so that law enforcement can replace them with effective, equitable practices that ensure civil and human rights and improve public safety in the communities they serve.