To The Editor:
The smoke has mostly dissipated, though the sight of burned out and graffiti-laden buildings are reminders that the rage is just nocturnal.
The streets, littered from battle with rubber bullets and water bottles, become only a bit less burdensome for residents to clean each morning, as protests remain large.
George Floyd has been laid to rest, and all four police officers responsible for his murder have been arrested. Yet the protests continue, as the rage over the handling of the unrest has morphed into a related, yet independent movement functioning alongside Black Lives Matter, Defund the Police.
The once crowded streets we enjoyed before the lockdown and were eager to return to are now filled with protesters in formation, battle lines drawn against police.
Some report being pepper-sprayed at close range, while others have lost eyes to aimless rubber bullets, been beaten with batons, and cursed at for existing in a free space.
Hundreds have been maimed by the equipment that their dollars paid for. We see fences around the White House, police in riot gear restricting movement and imposing curfews, all the while tear gas seeps in the windows of our sleeping children, uninvolved in the war taking place outside. There has to be a better way.
In a study reported by the Washington Post, the United States spends roughly double on law and order policing than on public assistance. These funds for current policing and public order strategies could be reallocated to more specialized teams.
Not only would it reduce deaths during police encounters, but also change the way we approach our safety and help our spending deficit.
“Defund the Police” sounds like a frightening dystopia wherein law and order cease to exist. It does little to encourage the reasonable citizen to support these reforms. Since messaging is so imperative in our fractured political landscape, a reframing is in order. “Specialize the Police” is more appropriate.
Police are responsible for competence in too many situations. They must be professional animal handlers, crisis counselors, mechanics, detectives, social workers, post-mortem care specialists, expert marksman, sprinters, community pillars, stunt car drivers, emergency medical technicians, and unbiased on top of it all.
We are putting our officers under a tremendous amount of stress and asking them to do jobs they are not adequately trained for. We would not call a plumber for a gas leak or a brain surgeon for a spider bite. Problems require different skills, knowledge, tools and approaches, and it is in our favor to seek the right helper.
Under this renewal of the system, every existing officer could still have a position.
The renewed police force would be broken down in to sub-teams; to start, Armed Forces, De-Escalation Team, Highway Patrol, Crime Investigation and Fraud Team.
The Armed Forces, most identical to what we have today, would now be the highest level officer. They would be exhaustively vetted. This team is responsible for completing arrest warrants and must be on stand-by for emergency response.
They are available as backup to respond to any of the teams below if force is needed, and they are the only officer allowed to carry a firearm.
Domestic disputes, rapes, sexual assaults, drug overdoses, suicide attempts and child endangerment calls will now be addressed by a De-escalation Team, comprised of counselors, social workers, crisis management medical specialists and DFS.
Speeding, accidents and reckless drivers will now be handled by Highway Patrol, and will be ticketed and released.
Murders, kidnappings, disappearances and other physical crime scenes would be investigated by detectives and forensic scientists.
A special unit, in conjunction with the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney General’s Office, will respond to all calls of fraud, theft and burglary, and will solely focus on asset recovery.
Riots and protest will now be handled by the National Guard, and only using nonaggressive tactics. Tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, batons and any other projectile, weapon, or chemical used against citizens are outlawed.
We need to recognize that policing and incarceration are nothing more than band-aids for the gushing wounds of our societal problems, like poverty, addiction, broken families, and lack of mental and physical health services.
We cannot dehumanize human error and tribulations. We must prepare for our flawed members in compassionate ways, by utilizing only the appropriate tools and qualified experts.
In this new world we are entering, people can be flawed, but never our institutions.