Solve the Problem
As we in the United States face a stream of unwarranted deaths of people of color, we, the public, ride the roller coaster of emotion that never quite seems to resolve. Day after day the outrages perpetuate. We hold on, with anger or others defend and blame, without cease.
Yet, we hold the answer to these problems. The community, ALL of us, not left or right, but members of community, can change the situation.
How on Earth could that possibly happen? Simple. We must look at the problem. Not the problem in Atlanta or the problem in Minneapolis or LA or NY, the problem that we as community have created.
We must identify the problem. Then we must see our role in that problem without scapegoating ourselves or anyone else.
We call on law enforcement to deal with the mentally ill. Police are not social workers or medical providers. We ask them to mediate arguments that do not involve crime. Police are arbitrators. Laws call on the police to arrest people for crimes against corporations, violation of product rental agreements and shoplifting. Police are not errand runners. People who fail to update their car tag or keep equipment up to date could go jail. Police are not tax collectors. Individuals with drug problems should be in jail, per the legislature. Police do not offer drug treatment programs.
And while the police are called up to handle things, because we believe that government should both stay out of our business and arrest people who disagree with us or who don’t conform to social norms, the police are unable to focus on actual crime. The push and pull of what police can and should be doing cloud their role. We expect law enforcement to be superhuman somehow for the least amount pay we can provide.
Law Enforcement embrace in many instances this superior power, might, and authority. This idea can lead to guns as tools of compliance rather than last resort. The job is a challenge and sacrifice, but it should not cause the officer to dehumanize anyone else. How do we address and reinforce the common humanity among everyone? Would this idea of common humanity change the way police deal with the public? Would common humanity change how the public, all of the public, feel towards law enforcement?
What would happen if we provided law enforcement substantive bias training? The training that makes the student uncomfortable by forcing the student to look at their shadow selves. We all have these shadows. Acknowledging them rather than ignoring them creates awareness within a person and furthers that human understanding.
How about trauma assessments for officers by providers outside the system? A genuine review for burnout, secondary trauma or compassion fatigue, as well as PTSD, would assist in placing officers where they can be most useful and focused. Living and working from a place of trauma only intensifies the problems. Toughing it out and stuffing down those tough feelings makes the environment between police and public worse not better.
In addition to offering a sharpshooting prize to the best shot in mandate school, offer an award for understanding the Constitutional Rights that officers swear to uphold and protect. Offer at least as much training in understanding the Constitution as pistol usage. Shift the education from a “cover your ass perspective” to an objective “these rights belong to everyone” perspective.
We can begin solving the problem by also working on the arms race between law enforcement and suspected criminals. I’m not really sure how. Hoping someone with a broader perspective can help with that. As far as I can tell, the arms race is on between the two.
Community needs to create changes that might improve the culture of scarcity and poverty among our population. Scarcity and poverty exist among people of color, the mentally ill, and the drug addicted, to name a few. Scarcity of opportunity, access, and hope plague these groups. Don’t presume that your, or my, individual perspective is the only and right one; communities need to work diligently to communicate and create options.
We need to listen, and ask folks to talk about their experiences without judgement, shame, or alienation. The people who need to input include law enforcement. Lasting change cannot happen without all parties involved at the table and sharing experience.
We need to name the problem. We need face the problem. We need to talk about the problem openly. Then, we might begin to solve this problem. Once that’s done, we move on to the next.
© Nancee Tomlinson 2021