(I participated in a civil dialogue on the recent popular slogan – “Defund the Police”. The words below are read aloud to those in attendance. / The bullet statements are other thoughts that I had but did not say.)
Hello, my name is Jerome Danner, and I have been a blogger, writer, and recently an educator. I am glad to participate tonight as I believe civil discourse is vitally importance for a free society to move forward in unity.
I am against the resolution: America’s local governments should defund police departments and support alternative programs for public safety. It is my humble opinion that this says that all police departments (and police officers) are corrupt and in need of reform. I think it can be said and shown that not every department across America has had to face the unfortunate and tragic stories like we are hearing with the story of George Floyd. So, they could avoid being defunded, but take the necessary measures to prevent something like this from happening in their area. What every department in all 50 states is in constant need of is training. Continued training in how to deal with those individuals struggling with mental health issues and engaging combative individuals without the use of a gun or even having it drawn.
Of course, one should not just get too hung up on the wording, but delve deeper into the meaning behind defunding police departments, and what that actually looks like. I like the words – “Reimagine Public Safety” – as it provides the idea that law enforcement can be served in another way. Minneapolis City Councilman – Felipe Cunningham – used this phrase – “Reimagine Public Safety” – in an interview with the TODAY Show this past Sunday to express his desires to reform his local police department. I think any thoughtful and caring person, regardless of their political worldview, could get behind this kind of a mindset when it comes to law enforcement. If there is a way to have police officers perform their duties in such a manner that most of the people in their community can truly see them as partners and not threats, then this way should be pursued wholeheartedly.
But a reformation of policing does not have to mean the removal (or subtracting) of funding for their departments. As a matter of fact, in some cases, it may even mean the increase of funding for those departments, but possibly with stipulations that include mandatory monthly training. Obviously, police officers will continue to have to be held to a higher standard. As we all know, to whom much is given much is expected or required. This definitely goes for those in power or have a certain amount of authority over others. If there is clear-cut abuse happening (or a police officer amassed a number of complaints), then steps should be taken to remove him/her or help them make the changes needed to be more successful at their job. A police department is of no good to the community it services if the community cannot fully trust that department. So, if a police officer breaks the law or tarnishes the image of his department because of his evil behavior, then he should not be protected by other law enforcement agencies. He should receive consequences as well because a department should not gamble with their reputation as the public sees it.
Even with all of this being said, police departments can start here to enact change in the relationship that they have with their community. But this is not the only thing that they should not be doing. With a major view being that most (or all) cops are racist or corrupt, this is the time that every department intentionally finds ways to win their community’s trust back. There have been cries for the demilitarization of police forces as well. As hard as it may be (and as dangerous as it may be), a police department should really consider the appropriateness of shooting tear gas into crowds of protesters, if those protesters have not given any evidence of violence towards other citizens or law enforcement. Law and order being maintained is still vital to keeping a community from descending into anarchy during intense moments of outrage. Nevertheless, if anger and aggression is met with anger and aggression (even in the form of policing tactics), then there can be no healthy communication and protesters will only become all the more incensed.
Again, if reforming how policing can be done in America involves community-building, then I am for it. Some people are looking at what Camden, New Jersey, did with their police departments by dismantling them during 2013, then going on to re-build them and make stronger connections with people in their communities. Camden County, New Jersey apparently has seen a significant drop in crime in their area. Something so impressive should be shared if other departments have this need and can actually learn from their model.
In conclusion, people should be reminded that it takes funds to keep law enforcement well-trained. It would take funds to try alternative programs for public safety as well. Ultimately, the goal must be for law enforcement and the communities being served to come together to mutually and intentionally plan for a peaceful existence. If the desire is to have peace in a community’s streets, if all citizens have some common ground, then it is more than possible for a department to keep its funding and keep citizens happy.
*Jocko Willink, a well-known retired Navy SEAL, made a good point (around the 3:00 mark) in a conversation with popular comedian and podcast host – Joe Rogan – recently when he said that training was very important for law enforcement. He stated that, as a SEAL team member, they would have to train for about 18 months before they went on a 6 month deployment. Unfortunately, many police officers would only get hours of training before they are placed out on the streets to serve and protect.*
*Why do one and not the other? Why not do both? Therefore, let us look at funding both police departments and alternative public safety programs. A key ingredient could be getting the community more involved.
*Another thing is that communities must be willing to meet with law enforcement about how to change things. We all have to remove that this issue is very nuanced because morality is seen differently with people from difficult cultures. So, it is not just a racial thing. If law enforcement are not from the same community as the citizens they are serving and protecting, then that could bring other issues as well. / Many of us have seen viral videos showing police officers dancing or engaging in sports with citizens. This is because building relationships can change everything.