The last five weeks have been a lesson in our painful history and current culture of how police are trained and view their interactions with the public. What we will finally do to manage and change our current policing system?
To be honest, “defund the police” makes me very nervous, as once again, poor and indigenous communities will suffer the most if cities make changes and reduce law enforcement without a plan in place to preserve life and safety. Community policing was started years ago and should continue to be a focus.
NYPD commissioner, Dermot Shea recently discussed Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that New York City will move funding away from police and toward youth and teen programs which he felt can reduce crime. If we require 2-4 year degrees for police, they will need to be paid at a higher wage which will increase the police budget versus less money for police and more for social services.
Communities need help with violence, disorder, substance abuse and homelessness. Over the years, police and courts handled all social issues vs agencies which are better trained to do this. Policing is a tool of violence which facilitates gross inequities; slavery, colonialism, breaking unions and supervision of worker’s rights. Half of Minneapolis budget is police and jails. We need to rethink budgets and demand more police accountability and political accountability.
Everyone wants to “get back to normal” after 3 plus months of lockdown due to Covid 19 and the upheavals in towns and cities due to police misconduct. The murder of George Floyd and the protests and looting that followed made “moving back to normal” something that will take longer than originally thought. Will we ever be the same and should we be? One author said that the ruling class has been “looting” from the working poor and people of color every day. For instance, schools, homes, communities, labor and healthcare are typically well funded for the middle and upper classes, but have less resources available for the poor. The ruling class likes to shift the language to create a situation where the underclass has few rights. Law and Order is part of the ruling class and continues state violence and terror.
Before the terms law enforcement and police were created, the term was “slave patrol.” These were white volunteers whose goal it was maintain laws related to slavery. They captured anyone who escaped from bondage and returned them to their masters. The slave patrol could enter anyone’s home regardless of who they were, if they thought the home was sheltering slaves or engaged in any crime. This brings to mind the recent murder of Brianna Taylor. The modern form of going into someone’s home that they suspect of a crime and often, as in the case of Ms. Taylor, the person has nothing to do with the crime they are investigating. Brianna Taylor tragically lost her life when police were attempting to locate a suspect.
What can we do moving forward? We pat ourselves on the back for donating food, giving money, protesting, posting articles on social media, and signing petitions. However, the way to make lasting change is to invest in families, young people, and children. We need to be the change and we can do that by speaking up, making changes at work, hiring people of color, having tough conversations about race and mentoring young people.
Now is the time. Will we rise up or resume our lives yet again without making the changes that are needed?
Kay Gimmestad, LCSW-C is a business coach and clinician in New York City with 20 years of experience working in the profit and not for profit sectors of Human Resources, Health and Human Services. She has built a reputation for being highly skilled in facilitating behavior change while working with employees, both individually and in groups, on matters relating to performance management, substance abuse, crisis intervention, and stress/wellness.