Thursday, June 11, 2020

What the Hell Does ‘Defund the Police” Even Mean?

Actions taken in moments of anguish and frustration may feel good and even work to deflate the anger on both sides of a sensitive issue, but they don’t often end up on the right side of history.

It’s not hard to consider, we’ve seen it in all its vicious majesty in every decade of our nation’s history. We are, in the most honest and sensitive definition of the word, a racist nation.

Sit back, adjust the twist in your knickers and recognize the social, economic and spiritual distance between who we are and who we think we are. That’s never been shown more visually and accurately than in the recent days of national anguish over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

There are always camel’s backs in the history of man and straws that break camel’s backs. That great mass of Americans, known as the silent majority, are truly and finally fed up with the sometimes daily and surely weekly murder of unarmed black men by police.

It must and will stop, but the answer is not in defunding. If we’ve learned a single thing in crises of any nature, it’s that austerity never works. Defunding is austerity on steroids.

I asked you, a few paragraphs back, to consider our racist and militarized civilian police. Now, I ask you to consider another possibility…

…consider awakening tomorrow morning—or next week, or next month—to no police at all. Or, in a far more realistic scenario, a reduced rank of men and women embittered, shamed, hated and ostracized by the public they are expected to protect.

Defunding is an idiotic proposal, meant for a feel-good moment and a bumper-sticker solution to a 244 year old lie about all men being created equal. Only a fool storms a powder-tower with torches.

And the most powerful and elegant nation in the world is a powder-tower of lies.

We were founded on the lie of equality. Slavery fed that lie and we fought the bloodiest war in American history  to right that wrong, carrying it forward over the decades since by the ‘other means’ of segregation, lynching, education and all the favors that make a life worthwhile if you happen to be born white.

Somehow we never defunded racism, because that might have meant a change of heart. The American heart is at the moment of change but, oh my, that’s a tender and open-minded undertaking.

We need to approach it with money and care and a sense of shared trust, rather than a bumper-sticker and chaos in the streets of our cities. Defunding sinks all boats and our lovely country is so close to anarchy at the moment that it only makes sense to add up the forces aligned against  us.

Agreed, the police are largely out of control nationwide. My home area is Chicago and it’s a poster boy for every grievance on the books. Why do you suppose that is the case?

1.  White money built Chicago and the power structure behind white money always likes things to be predictable, profitable and comfortable.
2.  The police are and always have been very good at that, as long as no one looks too closely at the process. It’s a bit like making sausage. It’s best not to know exactly what’s in it.
3.  The history of money in the United States is and always has been (think back to Washington and Jefferson here) closely tied to the sort of privilege that leaves certain classes lying wounded or dead in the streets. That’s not a comfortable thought and so the wealthy don’t think it. 

The less fortunate have known it for 400 years.

The moment is right. Unfortunately, the circumstances are wrong, with a pandemic of unknown proportions among us, 40 million Americans out of work, many businesses and entire industries likely not to survive and an almost disappeared middle class.

But we’re going to do it anyway. Good on us.

Trust me, it’s not going to be easy. This is where Martin Luther King, Jr’s train ultimately came off the tracks. He awoke the spirit of mutual love and care among the races, but the mechanics of racism survived unchanged and, in many ways, grew much stronger.

But spirit is a different animal. Spirit survives once it is awakened. The protesters in our streets are of all races and whites are among them, under police batons, across the media and in conversations across dinner-tables and curb-sides.

An interesting thing occurs when Wall Street goes bust, as it does every decade or so. Government, particularly among those snarly old deficit-hawk Republicans, finds money by the shovelful to keep the rich afloat, which the wealthy write off and the less well off are obliged to pay back.

Socialism of course, but the comforting, snuggle-your-head-in-your-pillow type of socialism that’s so special to the great and wonderful leaders of industry.

So, the money’s there. We just saw $3 trillion disbursed in the past few months. For god sake, stop ranting about defunding the police and look elsewhere for social equity.

Yes, for the homeless, yes for housing equity, yes for healthcare, yes for education and yes for mental health, but don’t take it from police budgets.

We need more, not less to reframe the very nature of policing.

The police unions should be the first to go and that probably means bankrupting departments as the only way to start fresh. The demise of union employment since Reagan is the foremost driver of a once-great and now-lost middle class. I’m a fan of unions, but UBTC’s (Unions Before the Change) are rife with agreements that unfairly protect officers from civilian oversight.

The ‘new’ police must be de-militarized, pulled out of patrol cars and put on neighborhood beats, where they can interact with the public. That costs money. Pay rates need to go up as well and that costs more money.

Police recruiting from the military is a non-starter, unless a federal six-month training course is instituted that brings all 50 states into compliance. Yet another money issue, but I was in the military. They teach (and very well, I might add) that everyone is the enemy and to shoot-to-kill. Swat Teams and ‘no-knock’ drug raids must be gone. Policing is a bargain with those policed and must always respect that obligation.

Most cities are set up in precincts, or other similar areas and the police in those sectors must live in the area they patrol. No more living in the suburbs and policing a city. As an officer, you have to know your locals and they have to know you. Call them Police Boards (or whatever you choose), but local citizens and local officers must meet to discuss tactics and strategy at least twice a week.

C’mon, people, this is a community effort. Body and patrol car cams are required at all times and non-compliance is cause for firing. The firing of any weapon, under any conditions, is cause for a full public inquiry.

This is, obviously, simply a bare-bones first look at reconfiguring our police departments. And I favor a sit-down with all members of individual forces, from chief to patrolman, to be given the chance to wholeheartedly get on board with the new terms, including the replacement of the current union.

But defunding will bring on chaos and disaster.

America is an armed nation, perhaps too well-armed, but the wholesale demise of police departments puts ordinary citizens at far too much risk.

No comments:

Post a Comment