Who Do You Call, If Not the Police?

This era, whatever we call it, could usher in massive changes to global society. The death of George Floyd at the hands, make that the knee, of Derek Chauvin sparked outrage that may look to many like an enormously over-sized reaction to a police officer killing a sole Black man while his colleagues stood silently and watched. But the outrage is not just for George Floyd. The outrage is for the hundreds like him who died at the hands of police officers whose sense of power and authority overcame their sense of humanity. The outrage is an explosion of pent-up rage that spews forth from a heretofore moderately contained vessel that has finally ruptured, letting loose the pressure of hundreds of years of building anger.

So, this era could usher in massive changes. I think it already had. Cities are seriously examining de-funding police departments. While I think that is a bad idea, I am open to arguments that might change my mind. I think, rather than disbanding police departments, we should restructure the criminal justice system from top to bottom. That would include changes in laws; decriminalizing behaviors that do no harm to anyone except the perpetrator (and maybe not even the perpetrator). And it would include diverting money from police departments, spreading it judiciously within the communities police departments are meant to serve. So, I see police departments diminishing in size and scope and I see their “policing” duties shrinking along with them. I expect resources will be directed away from punitive enforcement and toward rehabilitation of communities and the people in them. But this may all be a fantasy. We may simply fall back into the same routine we’ve always followed. Because people must change, in their hearts, for real change to occur in society. Unfortunately, I see evidence all around me that minds are closing, shrinking, becoming awash in hatred and fear and indiscriminate loathing.

This will sound a little too much like Hitler’s philosophies, but so be it: the real answer to human suffering and society turmoil and chaos is to remove the ones causing the suffering; all of them. Today, I would identify those people by their affiliation with the Tea Party, white supremacy movements, left-wing anarchists and their brethren, and people who tolerate or are followers of Trump. There may be more. Eliminate them and the problems are no longer insurmountable. I’m not suggesting they be killed; deporting them to an empty planet would work just fine. Once that’s done, problems become issues of ideology that can be argued, debated, and ultimately addressed through compromise. Until compromise is possible, compromise is impossible.

But back to the call for de-funding police departments. Who do you call for assistance when someone is attempting to break if your house if you have disbanded the police department? Who do you call for help, regardless of the problem, when you’re in trouble in a strange city? You don’t call your friends or neighbors a hundred miles away for immediate rescue. Yet we have given police departments responsibilities for everything from murder investigations to robberies and break-ins to traffic law enforcement to entrapment and enforcement of drug laws. The entire system of criminal justice and public safety should be examined with a clean slate; no pre-conceived ideas (like mine), no unspoken assumptions…no assumptions at all!

Finally, before we do anything, we ought to look very closely at other countries that are far more successful than the U.S.A. in terms of policing, public safety, levels of criminality, etc. and we should determine whether we, the self-proclaimed greatest country in the history of the world, might learn a little from some of the more humble nations.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to Who Do You Call, If Not the Police?

  1. You’re no polyanna, Patty! Thanks for your comment; I appreciate it.

  2. Thanks, Pat. I will listen to the interview shortly; I appreciate your calling it to my attention. Sorry I just now saw your comment; for some reason, I’m not getting notified of comments…and thus far, I’ve been unable to fix it!

  3. Patty Dacus says:

    Love your thoughts on this. I totally agree. I am a polyanna, tho’….so nothing is impossible!! 🙂

  4. Pat Newcomb says:

    In the onslaught of talking heads, experts, folks on the ground, etc etc this Rachel Maddow interview with Professor Philip Attiba Goff of John Jay College on Monday 6/8 comes through like a clarion call. https://on.msnbc.com/2BUe4YJ
    You have touched on many good things here John – the post is worth spreading around. Thanks

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