First of all, I want to say that the word “defund” in this context is inflammatory and a poor word choice. I do not plan to use that word here when I am communicating my intentions. Feel free to reach out in the comments if you have questions.
John Oliver just covered this for Last Week Tonight: Police
There are so many analogies that I can make. The biggest thing that I’ve learned in my research is that we need to lighten the load of the police. Everything has been dumped on them. No wonder they’re overwhelmed and scared.
The following was written by Father Nathan Monk, posted to his Facebook page earlier this month.
“Imagine this with me for a moment. A guy falls asleep after drinking. He’s in line for Wendy’s because he’s needing some late night greasy food. He’s been out with his friends all night and he’s super tired. He falls asleep. An employee notices and goes inside.
They call 911.
The driver wakes up to a gentle tap on the window. He rolls it down. He’s a little confused and disoriented.
“Hi. My name is Stacy. I’m a social worker and I just wanted to make sure you are alright?”
“I just fell asleep.”
“I understand. This is my colleague, their name is Dominque. They want to go order your meal for you while we talk. What did you want?”
“A number four with a coke.”
“Would you mind pulling your car over there so we can talk? Dominique will be getting that meal for you.”
“Ok, just a second. Am I in trouble?”
“No, we just want to make sure you are safe and that everyone else on the road is safe. Can we do that together?”
“I can do that!”
After a conversation, Stacy and Dominique decide that they are pretty sure they can confirm that the driver has been drinking. They ask a lot of questions about his drinking habits. They determine that he clearly doesn’t have a drinking problem. He just rarely drinks, didn’t know his limits, and made a mistake to get behind the wheel.
After his meal, the driver is feeling much better. The social workers offer to have his car towed to his house and an Uber comes to pick him up.
In this scenario, Rayshard Brooks is still alive. He’s given compassionate and reasonable care. This is what community should look like. This is a way we could re-envision what our response could be as a society. This is what it would look like to defund the police.”
What Father Nathan Monk has imagined is perfectly reasonable. Putting it into practice, however, is a different story.
Do I think it can happen?
With the right people involved, the right resources, and the proper allocation and adjustments of funding, YES.
But, it’s not just reforming the police.
It’s reforming mental health services, social services, education, and the list goes on and on.
A lot more work needs to be done. That’s the one thing that is crystal clear.
So, what can you, as a resident of your community, do?
Get involved with your city leaders. Find out who oversees the police department. Here in Portsmouth, Virginia, the police chief’s boss is our city manager.
Participate, productively, in city council meetings. Demand change. Send emails to those directly responsible.
Most importantly – Vote in the election this November. Research the candidates that will be on your ballot. Exercise your constitutional right. Request a mail-in ballot if you don’t feel comfortable voting in person. This is the one big thing that EVERYONE can do, and it’s one of the easiest things. Look up your State Board of Elections for more information.
Reforming Police | American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Police Reform | The New York Times Magazine
Police Reform | The Marshall Project
The City that Really Did Abolish the Police | Politico
Fixing the Force | PBS FRONTLINE
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂