By Melissa Simpson
Philadelphia native Earvin Faust, a 34-year-old DCCC Municipal Police Academy student is in the middle of his year long cadet training at the academy and on track to graduate in December 2016.
For more than 30 years the college’s police academy has been responsible for training 95 percent of Delaware County and 75 percent of Chester County Police officers, according to the college’s website.
Recently, police districts across the country have been under fire for their use of excessive force against racial minorities, including black people. According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between the years of 2003-2009, 30 percent of unarmed people that were killed by police were black, while it was only 19 percent for whites.
In relation to the U.S. population, arrest related deaths were 19 percent higher for black people and 22 percent lower for white people.
Recently, I chatted with Faust about his experiences as a black student in the college’s Municipal Police Academy. We also discussed the training he is receiving in the academy, why he chose to join the academy, and his experiences with police.
Melissa Simpson: Please tell me a little bit about your background.
Earvin Faust: I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I went to community college [of Philadelphia]. I went to Temple and studied criminal justice. I am currently working on my master’s degree in public administration. I have worked in security for retail loss prevention, event security, and private investigation, so I have done a lot of different things.
M: What was the catalyst for you to begin training in the police academy? Was it a natural progression?
E: I believe it was natural progression. I have a natural desire to help people. As I have gone along, especially in the last few years, I have learned who I am as a person and that is what my interest is in — it is where I get self-fulfillment. I have just been taking advantage of opportunities when it comes to my becoming a public servant.
M: What type of training do you go through?
E: We study criminal law, vehicle codes, physical training, firearms training, just how to deal with different people in different situations. It is a pretty broad spectrum of information that they give us. A lot of the things I experienced personally or learned through my other formal education, reinforces those ideas.
M: Do the students in the DCCC’s police academy receive diversity or sensitivity training?
E: Absolutely. We watch several videos. We’ve had instructors talk to us about diversity. When I am in those classes, I kind of look at it from my own point of view. Being a minority in the classroom and in the country, I have a different perspective when I look at the material. I try to look at the material objectively and ask, is it teaching other people who don’t have the same outlook as me what they need to know about my culture?
M: What do you mean by your perspective?
E: In my experiences as a young man, I have seen the good and the bad as far as law enforcement’s treatment of individuals. I have had bad experiences and I have good, but I am not the type to judge because being black, I understand how I don’t want to be forced into stereotypes and have people look at me a certain way because of that. I just kind of look at police the same way. I have had positive and negative interactions with police. I think it is an individual issue as opposed to the group thing.
M: How would you describe your experiences in the police academy so far?
E: I think the instructors have done a good job of making us aware. If you are not familiar with what has been going on in the media, they make us aware when a situation happens. They tell us that is not the approach that we should take. They don’t generally get into specifics, but they are trying to let us know that people do make bad decisions and we can’t just look at it like a group decision.
M: What are your thoughts on the current racial climate in America?
E: I don’t think it is healthy. I think there are a lot of people who are misinformed because of where they receive their information. I really think that you hear a lot of people with a lot of opinions, especially on social media. I see a lot of bias. Some people are looking for confrontation and some people don’t have the proper information to make a proper assumption. There is a lot of chaos between people. A lot of them don’t even have the knowledge or facts. I don’t think people should be discussing it until they have that.
M: Statistically speaking, African-Americans are targeted more by the police than whites. There are also significantly more incarcerated black people than white people. How do you feel about becoming part of an institution that influences these disparities?
E: I can’t really say that it is a matter of the organization. I believe that people need to be accountable for their own actions. We all need to be accountable, whether it is law enforcement or the general public. We all need to be accountable when it comes to making the right decisions. That is why I am in the position that I am in. I feel like I am in the position where I can have a positive influence on negative situations such as those so I can help ease the feelings of those who feel like they are in a disparity [incarceration and arrest]
M: Assuming that you believe that there needs to be improvements in the way that some police interact with people of color, in what ways do you think those improvements can be made?
E: I feel like improvements can be made with community relations. A lot of people are misinformed. They will look at TV and expect that to be case for every situation. I think people need to take a step back and understand that everybody is not out to get you. You can’t always be the victim. You have to step back and ask yourself, “How did I put myself in this situation?” Maybe this person I am dealing with is just a bad person, but not everybody in the group is not the same. It goes for whether you are a person of color or a police officer. Everybody has different experiences and I tend to believe that you shouldn’t generalize.