Like parallels in other parts of our social worlds, there have been two very different tracks going on in policing for the past few decades. Almost like a fight between good and evil. Or good cop, bad cop.
On the one hand, there’s been a large increase in the militarization of policing. Police departments across the nation have been acquiring lots of body armor, tanks, SWAT related assault rifles, grenades, etc.
And on the other hand there’s the stuff that research says actually works: better community policing.
Yup, pretty much across the board research shows that community policing strategies, restorative justice, CIT programs and the like simply work better. They help to lower crime, and these strategies promote much better relations between the police and the communities they are supposed to be serving.
The same simply cannot be said for the militarization of police.
Community policing strategies not only work to help reduce crime and better general relations, the strategies also lead to: Fewer dead or terrorized citizens! Fewer cops being arrested for murder! And the proper use of community policing strategies will never result in two week long massive protests around the world being sparked when they are implemented. Just sayin’
By now, it should be clear, force based military interventions that were and still are being used on peaceful protesters have greatly prolonged the civil unrest we are still experiencing here in June of 2020.
Newsflash: Military shows of force totally suck at promoting widespread unity or understanding among differing groups. They don’t produce peaceful reasoned responses in most people either. There are at least three groups that no longer use reason once militarized force is used.
- The perpetrators of the use of force are not using anything close to reason. They are using force. We have all witnessed militarized units using force on peaceful civilians engaging in constitutionally protected free speech. These perps and the bigger perps who allow the actions are using the utter opposite of reason- clearly. When anyone engages in unjustified use of force, they are acting just like criminals, and should be treated as such.
- Many of those protesting against the perpetrators then become so utterly disgusted, repulsed, revolted, nauseated and enraged by the actions of the militarized (and their “leaders”) that they lose all respect for them and start using words like perpetrators, fascism supporters, racist enablers, criminals, stuff like that. Ya feel me? I, for one, have no respect for ya right now, none. Most of the time, I do want peace, love and understanding but right now, after you’ve attacked my fellow citizens, quite honestly, I just want to spit in disgust at you.
- Those somehow defending the use of military interventions on civilians engaged in lawful activities are clearly not using anything like reason either. These sad sacks will be judged quite harshly, both currently by all fully functioning humans, and by humans at all other points in history. Bonus: if their horribly warped ideas of God do exist, they will also go straight to hell, for stupidity, if nothing else.
The Utterly Corrupt MIC (Military Industrial Complex)
So clearly militarization of police doesn’t work, yet here it is. Why is that?
Unfortunately, the military graciously gives away billions in “excess” military equipment. This was slowed a bit after the massive protests over police conduct in Ferguson, but Trump (pretty predictably) reversed that course in 2017 and again allowed the military to give equipment to police departments. The obese as AG Barr defense budget (both are obscene) is clearly over-funded. Any reasonable human can see that. But now, add to your disgust that the recipients of “defense” money are able to give literally billions of dollars in equipment for free to police departments.
So what do they give? Peace promoting strategies? Nope. Hell no. They gift these departments with “tools” that are meant to intimidate and subdue the same citizens the police are supposed to be protecting and serving, “tools” that do nothing to support a higher standard of living for the communities where they are used, “tools” expressly designed to kill and maim. Ain’t the MIC great?!
What the militarization of police actually does is expand the MIC’s reach even further. Because 800 billion dollar a year wasted on “defense” isn’t enough. How did it get to this point? Well, the boys and girls of the MIC do have the perfect way to promote their industry. Fear. And God knows that fear sells, and that means PROFITS! Wanna make money and destroy the quality of live for billions? Sign on with your local MIC vendor.
Fear sparks a primordial response in pretty much everyone. The “gifts” of these kinds of “tools” are all related to the use of force– which can’t help but trigger the reptilian parts of our brains with fear. So we all go subtly into fight flight or freeze mode. Bottom line: the “gifts” of these “tools” change police departments and the larger communities around them into cultures that have more fear attached to them. And it does not take a genius to see that fear based cultures create ever more ugly, regressive, violence prone dystopias. Both for the cops’ cultures, and for the culture at large. And we all have to witness the truly repulsive changes taking place. Way to go, boys and girls of the MIC!
Open comment to the people of the MIC: You’ve managed to change the hearts of (mostly) men and (a few) women from having visions of serving and protecting, to helping them believe that they are called to dominate others, or at the least, protect themselves from citizens, and be prepared to do battle against citizens. The glamor of guns and the cult of hyper masculinity seem to drown out common decency and draw in the exact kind of people who should not become cops. But you guys and gals already know that.
Make no mistake, a few of these MIC folks are INTENTIONALLY doing this. It’s a long range plan. To what end, I’ve never figured out, but it is an intentional plan hatched by warped folks. Probably just for money. Ain’t that grand?
The boys and girls of the MIC (should) know that law enforcement already attracts folks with certain kinds of personality traits that can lead to problems. But instead of trying to mitigate the problems, they graciously supply equipment and give police shiny, hyper masculine “tools” that serve to help brainwash police into seeing their jobs differently. To paraphrase Marx: from serve and protect, to dominate and subdue. The infection of a military mindset is now complete. Congrats!
In their defenses, the boys and the girls of the MIC generally are already quite infected by “might makes right” kind of “thinking”. So it makes sense that they want to share their sad, fear based world views. In reality, “might makes right” thinking has no place in the 21st century because (surprise) we no longer live in the Holocene. We live in the Anthropocene. And in the Anthropocene, simplistic “dominate or be dominated” thinking is an infection that poisons judgment to much worse outcomes than the pandemic that is COVID.
Towards A (Much) Calmer More Peaceful, More Unified Community
Well, clearly I’m a bit riled up. But I’m gonna try to take a few steps back and more fully explain that community based strategies are based in ideas more closely aligned with collaboration, cooperation, and the building up of safe and healthy communities. Yeah words on paper.
Actions look like: cops walking in neighborhoods without being armed to the teeth, cops engaging with and being part of the community. Think (of the good) beat cops of yore. Cops (with no weapons) going bowling with kids, sponsoring events at the local science museums (but not cops showing off their tanks to kids, nope nope!). Cops (with no weapons) helping kids in after school programs, hanging out at snack time, serving the snacks, even helping kids with homework, or just coming by and saying hello to the staff for a couple of minutes.
Cops invested in informal partnerships with mental health agencies, community centers, libraries. Cops willing to work collaboratively in cross disciplinary models especially with mental health agencies, diversity education groups, and social service groups.
Cops thoroughly and formally versed in TIC (Trauma Informed Care) for citizens in the community. Copes educated about and open to dealing with their own first responder issues around fear, violence and trauma.
Police cultures where getting help after a “bad day” is not only okay, it is expected. Police cultures where there is no code of silence bullshit solidarity or negative bonding (if this sounds impossible in your jurisdiction, then we should just dismantle the entire department and start the fuck over because this is what healthy people do).
Large, well funded CIT programs within police departments of all sizes. Cops thoroughly trained in de escalation techniques. Cops who are willing to actively partner with other social service and mental health programs such as wraparound programs, ACT programs MH clubhouses, homeless shelters, community programs serving special populations, etc.
Community policing often involves creation and participation in community liaison programs where civilians from at risk communities go out with (un armed) cops into those communities to community event functions (parades festivals, concerts, etc.).
At this point in time, I believe CIT type programs in particular should be expanded to work with cops on a wider variety of calls. Currently they are used when mental health issues are clearly in play. But I think they should be funded and used far more often. Especially while so many police departments are as sick as they are.
Why? Because I can just about guarantee you if MH professionals go out with cops on more calls that involve lower level crap, there will be fewer violent encounters. Even with four horrible cops (such as the murderers who took George Floyd’s life), if a mental health professional had gone out on that call (even with the cops still in charge), odds are much higher that Mr. Floyd would be alive today. Because there is nowhere near the fucking code of silence cops are used to- if I knew or strongly suspected a MH person was doing effed up stuff, I’d report them, and so would every colleague I know. That goes for all inter disciplinary partnerships as well.
Why Listen To MH Professionals?
I have personally de-escalated dozens of community safety threats in my career. With words. These were potentially dangerous situations where people were highly agitated. Most of the time I was dealing with mental health crises, but sometimes people were just madder than hell about something, or trying to intimidate to get their way. A few wielded weapons (like rocks or pocket knives) but most did not. Much like most of the black folks who have somehow ended up dead at the hands of cops.
I am thoroughly trained in de escalation techniques. I am about 5’6″, female, and do not carry a weapon of any kind. I have no arresting powers. And, yes, I have peacefully faced down a person with a knife. Armed only with my training and words. During all of these encounters I have needed help from cops only about a half dozen times, and in almost every one of those times I have ONLY needed law enforcement to help me get a mentally ill person psychiatrically hospitalized. People like me do know what it’s like out there- more than most other folks. We can help cops be better cops.
My kind of work does not get billions in funding from the MIC. Wed use no shiny guns or kevlar protection. We go into communities unarmed and serve without weapons. But we serve fully, with the community’s best interests in mind. We serve with respect and compassion for those we work with. And accountability.
My kind of work generally does not make the papers. That is precisely because my kind of work helps prevent problems from escalating. Counselors, social workers, teachers, health care workers, and others like us are more focused on prevention, and so we are unrecognized as first responders, but we are the folks who make it unnecessary for cops to respond. Cops could learn a lot from us. A lot of us have been offering to work with you for years. Ya might want to take more of us up on the offers. Because it looks like you all might be getting near to blowing your last chances.
If you aren’t sure what a CIT program is, here’s a link. https://nami.org/Advocacy/Crisis-Intervention/Crisis-Intervention-Team-(CIT)-Programs