PARC's Matthew Barge Interviewed About Nashville Police Training Materials

PARC's Matthew Barge was interviewed by Nashville NPR Radio regarding a training textbook utilized by the Metro Nashville Police Department:

On the first day of training, every new recruit in the Nashville Police Academy is issued a stack of reading materials. Right on the top is Tactical Edge, a textbook dedicated to high risk patrol.

The dedication page reads: “For those officers who want to win.” The book, written by former journalist Charles Remsberg, was published in 1986. With gritty black and white photographs and tabloid-esque writing, it depicts a world of constant and increased threat. And it prescribes an aggressive approach to policing at a time when Nashville's department, and many around the country, are trying to move the other way.

The Metro Nashville Police Department says the most contentious material in the book is not taught. But some policing experts say the entire book, with its 31-year-old statistics and racially charged undertones, has no place in today’s law enforcement training. 

“It’s important for people know going through the academy that this is a dangerous job they’re getting into, but the first images in the book are of dead police officers,” says Matthew Barge, the co-director of the Police Assessment Resource Center, which helps departments across the country on reform initiatives. He’s referencing the black-and-white photo of five dead officers on page one of the introduction. It’s followed by pictures of black men in prison and a teenager jumping on a police car. 

Barge scrolls through the book’s introduction where, in all caps, it lays out the “cold hard bottom line: The gap between the training you get spoon-fed and what you need to survive on the street is left up for you to fill.”

On day one of training, every new recruit in the Nashville Police Academy is issued a stack of reading materials. Right on the top is Tactical Edge, a textbook dedicated to high risk patrol.

“That’s, like, red flags all over the place for me,” Barge says, after reading the line aloud. Barge is also the court-appointed monitor overseeing the federal consent decree between the Department of Justice and the city of Cleveland.

The book tells officers to be wary of an increasing population of minorities, which it says are “disproportionately associated with criminal violence.” It claims that public schools are churning out kids with criminal tendencies and that preschoolers left in day care are 15 times more aggressive than other children. It also says that most police training will always fall short of what’s really needed.

It sums the chapter up with these words: “On the street you will meet the human beings, the weapons, the mentalities behind the dismal facts above. They are waiting for you. Either you or they will have the edge.”

The type of mindset and culture Tactical Edge espouses, Barge says, “can be very damaging” and “create the kinds of problems that troubled police departments throughout the country have gotten into” — problems like racial profiling and the abuse of police authority. 

Read and listen to the whole story here.