The Oracle of Solace:
John Cole invited folks to write something about our preferred legislative priorities, so here’s mine.
As a kid I believed that Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) were alien visitors. So many enigmatic tales of strange encounters in remote places, so little actual evidence. I figured that if everybody had a camera, then at some point we’d have enough evidence to prove that UFOs were real, and that alien visitation was really happening.
Now I’m an adult, and every smartphone has a camera, but instead of proving the existence of UFOs, in the Trump years those cameras have proven that Officer Friendly isn’t.
Of all the various priorities that the incoming Biden Administration will have to face, redefining policing will be one of the most important. For the first time in American history, we have a major political party composed of communities targeted by, and allies ideologically opposed to, systemic racism.
It is absolutely critical that police forces, now widely perceived as serving only the social interests of racial and/or economically privileged communities while violently suppressing all others, be rebuilt as police services that can earn the trust of all the communities under their protection. This is a heavy lift, but it can be done.
This is going to take a lot of federal money, and will face a lot of institutional resistance. Smarter people than me will likely work out solutions, and I will be happy to hear them. From my inexpert (and probably ignorant) perspective we can probably start by addressing what the police themselves don’t like doing.
For example, police are routinely called to deal with situations for which the police have little training, and about which the police themselves complain. The federal government could provide funds to localities for the creation of mental-health response units, domestic counseling services, even expanded animal control units with the goal of taking those duties off the police blotter.
What we know is that we cannot expect policing to continue as it currently exists if we want to deal with the injustices we see in policing. Let’s look forward to new visions, and to a better America.
Thanks so much for submitting your essay! (WG)