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Problems in Police Training with Jessica Katzenstein

Unpacking Our History Lecture: Problems in Police Training with Jessica Katzenstein

Police reform advocates often push police departments to move from fear-laden “warrior” survival trainings and toward reality-based or scenario trainings, which involve immersive role-playing scenarios such as making an arrest. Scenario trainings promise to teach officers to suppress fear, counter racial bias, and calibrate “reasonable” uses of force. But these trainings often fall short of their promise and end up reinforcing the threats and survival mindset. Drawing on 16 months of ethnographic research with police officers in Maryland, Jessica Katzenstein explores how physical and virtual scenario trainings shape and inform police “common sense” tactics.

Jessica Katzenstein is a Harvard Inequality in America Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow. Jessica completed her PhD in Anthropology at Brown University in 2022. Her research traces how U.S. police officers absorb and resist reforms during a mounting legitimacy crisis, in order to understand why reforms perpetually fail to realize their promises to curb racialized violence.