Adrian Miu: My Introduction to Police Culture

2 min

Adrian Miu always wanted to be a police officer . . . until he experienced the culture central to being hired and trained.

In 2014, I took a job as a police trainee. I had finally achieved my dream job. I felt excited and prepared for what lay ahead.

I should not have been hired.

I wanted to serve my community but legally carrying a gun at all times was a hidden motivation. I guarantee many officers feel the same. I also am prone to road rage and have lashed out verbally at beloved family. The process should have stopped me but instead, two major cities offered me positions.

We now see the centuries-long pattern that treats people of color differently – all too often with fatal consequences. The response to George Floyd’s death began with another pattern: police and politicians calling for additional training. What mostly escapes scrutiny is the hiring process; perhaps because it seems comprehensive. The California hiring process can take more than a year and includes things like a physical agility test, interview, polygraph, background check and psychiatric test.

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However, from the moment an aspiring trainee enters the hiring process, they are indoctrinated in the culture of “act first or die.” Here’s an example scenario often given in interviews: you and your partner have responded to a call. You separate to look for the suspect. After several minutes, you hear a commotion. You find your partner being held with a gun to their head. What do you do?

My response was to check for bystanders, get them to safety and try to de-escalate the situation. I was told my response should have been to immediately draw my pistol and shoot the suspect. Another example: a physical agility test measured how many times I could pull the trigger of a pistol within 30 seconds. It became abundantly clear to me that the police culture seeks, even glorifies, violence.

With the current guiding principles that place quick, violent action above all else, we must completely rethink how and who we hire as officers. Violence does not always have to be the answer.

With a Perspective, I’m Adrian Miu

Adrian Miu has his master’s in Public Administration and works at a major medical health system in San Francisco.