LOS ANGELES – A spectator videotaped police in Inglewood, Calif., punching a handcuffed teenager during an arrest earlier this year and the images were broadcast to TV watchers around the country.
As scenes like this get more play in the media, America’s cops are being forced to undergo "sensitivity training."
This training consists of re-education classes dedicated to making police, corporate officers, students and even doctors more sensitive to racial and cultural differences.
But critics say the sessions present a false view of America as a nation of bigots.
"I think we should get rid of them completely," said Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "I think they’re a grotesque waste of time."
Mac Donald cited a training episode where a man and woman were forced to strip to their underwear and bound together for 24 hours. They had to do everything together, including going to the bathroom.
"Not every person learns the same way ... so some people will learn it experientially. So you do some exercises that get them to experience that feeling of being different," said Mark Abelson, a sensitivity trainer.
Sensitivity trainers defend their tactics as harsh but necessary. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, even for a day, makes everyone see the world differently, even cops.
"My gut feeling is, you know, the best police officer is half-cop, half-social worker," Abelson said.
Cops say that at the same time, their morale needs to be boosted.
"You beat us down, you destroy the desire of law enforcement to protect you, you ruin the spirit of your best and your brightest, then I fear for society as a whole," said Roy Burns of the Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.
But while cops are required to attend sensitivity classes, criminals are not. And what works in class doesn’t always work on the street, where being sensitive, police say, can be dangerous.