I’ve not been great at writing much about anything lately, except to write to elected officials. So here’s what I wrote to the city council this morning about this issue. Our over-policing harms everyone but because of the way society operates and the reality of racism, overpolicing harms black people and anyone perceived as too different more.
Good morning councilpersons (and staff)!
I can’t call this morning and at this point I assume you’re just tallying!
Anyway defund the police sounds scary but what it really means is to take out of the hands of the police (and justice system and jails & prison) problems that don’t make sense for armed people to work on.
As an example, in January 2019, 6+ cop cars showed up to the Living Computer Museum. I work near by and saw the swarm of cops and wondered what could possibly be so dangerous there.
It turns out it was … a sleeping man who had broken in to find warmth. He was no danger and his “crime” was incredibly minor. We permit corporations and businesses to get away with far worse every single day. Nonetheless he was booked into jail and presumably charged with a crime. I doubt it helped him improve his life — and it could have gone a lot worse than it did. What if he had, when sleepy, moved in a way that any of the cops present had felt was threatening? He could be dead.
Cops are not social workers and are not the best choice for the vast majority of problems we use them as the primary presence of authority and social “leadership”, from homelessness, mental health crises, to drug abuse, to traffic enforcement and even gang activity.
So I stand with the demands of the protesters that we at least start with:
– Removing 50% of SPD’s budget. I believe an examination of what person hours are used on are overwhelmingly devoted to social problems that do not required armed agents of the state to address effectively.
– Redirect that money to community solutions like housing, health care access, trauma services and so on.
– Finally, the folks protesting must not be punished for their protesting.
Thanks for reading and write or call your city council (if in the United States) to ask them to reduce the scope of police work and bring more accountability. If you need a fairly quick read The End of Policing by Alex Vitale is a thorough but fairly short book. It’s a free ebook right now. You can get a quick taste in this NPR interview or this podcast episode.