Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Overburdened Police

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, June 8, 2020

There’s been much “water under the bridge” in the last 50 years, or so.

Like it, or not, America has changed.

And frankly, not all change is good. Not all change is for the better. And we all recognize that fact, whether we voted, and voted for Trump, or someone else.

That’s a common unifier among us all regardless of what political affiliation – if any – we may have. We know that change has come, and some of it hasn’t produced the good it was purported to bring about.

Some of the change has been oblique, some of it has been blatant, some of it may have been justified, and some of it may have been a handout, or a head on a silver platter as a political favor.

Again, not all change is good, nor has all change been good. But neither is it all bad.

Change is necessary. We change diapers on babies regularly, and (should) change politicians regularly for the same reason – when they’re full of poop, they’re stinky, and dirty, and if left in place too long, will irritate the skin, and lead to infection.

In an interview article entitled “How Much Do We Need The Police?” by Leah Donnella, published June 6, 2020 on the NPR website, she spoke with Dr. Alex S. Vitale, PhD, Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College, and is a Visiting Professor at London Southbank University. For the past 25 years, he has consulted with police departments and international human rights organizations, served on numerous boards, conducted research, and authored numerous books, scholarly articles, and articles of public interest on matters of law enforcement.

In the interview, his observations were not merely prescient, but keen, some of which were, quite frankly, obvious – although at the time, we may not have noticed what would have occurred. But after problems did begin to emerge, we did nothing.

It’s the “Frosted Lucky Charms” mindset – thinking that if we do nothing, it’ll all be “magically delicious,” or miraculously go away… like the POTUS said of COVID-19 at a New Hampshire rally, February 10, 2020 when he said in part, that, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”

And now, as the saying goes, “the chickens have come home to roost.”

The fruit borne of the changes which have been made in many matters that do NOT pertain to police, that do NOT pertain to law enforcement, that do NOT require law enforcement intervention, that are merely either civil, health, or social matters, have been unfairly and unjustly thrust upon police whom have been tasked with responding to them.

In a very real way, they’ve been unjustifiably overburdened, and have by default, commanded to do many things OUTSIDE the scope of law enforcement. It’d be like asking a groundskeeper to also be a nanny. It’s also patently and preposterously absurd.

That blatantly points to the need for social spending – which for years has been on Republican’s financial chopping block – which, when properly attended to, will bring about social justice. Republicans love to tout the “private sector” and to default to some aspect of it by asserting that “a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good” will somehow, without the influence or the involvement of governmental agencies, will somehow turn out to be “magically delicious.” But the sad fact of the matter is, that they’ve been neglected by “the White House, in the Cabinet agencies.”

Those very governmental agencies have been, and continue to be, methodically dismantled by Republican operatives and their radicalized idealists who mistakenly believe that, as John L. O’Sullivan wrote “The best government is that which governs least.”

O’Sullivan was the one who, with Tammany Hall leaders – a corrupt NYC political machine – met with Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Presidential candidate, before the election and agreed to endorse him after he promised to give their leaders control of some federal jobs – a quid pro quo spoils, or patronage system – and at a victory celebration January 8, 1845 at Tammany Hall, proposed erecting a statue to Andrew Jackson which now stands in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, and was dedicated in 1853.

From the beginning of the Reagan administration, to today – some 40 years later – it is crystal clear that their misguided policies have not helped the American people as they alleged that they would, and have rather, burdened the police… in much the same way that their other policies have packed our prisons, and increased homelessness in the wealthiest nation on Earth.

“President Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act one month before the 1980 election but, upon President Reagan’s election victory, the Mental Health Systems Act was revoked and block-granted to the states. Conservatives took the view that the federal government had improperly assumed powers not granted by the Constitution and that individual states should create their own social policies designed to meet their own particular needs with each state having its own regulatory and social welfare system. Accordingly, in cost-cutting moves under the Reagan administration, funding was slashed for numerous social services such as public health, drug rehab and food stamps that were relied upon by the thousands of mentally ill people that were released from state facilities and, although homelessness first became a national issue under the Reagan administration, federal expenditures for low-cost housing were reduced from $32 billion in 1981 to just $7 billion in 1987.”
in “U01: Ronald Reagan and the Federal Deinstitutionalization of Mentally Ill Patients

At best, they were horribly misguided policies.

At worst, they were excessively heavy burdens upon the taxpayers, our judicial and prison systems, and upon Law Enforcement Officers.



One of the arguments you make in The End of Policing is that police are being asked to do too much. They’re basically being tasked with addressing every social problem that we have. So what are police asked to do? And what should they be asked to do?

One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.

But the policing has become more intensive, more invasive, more aggressive. So what I’m calling for is a rethink on why we’ve turned all of these social problems over to the police to manage. And as we dial those things back, then we can think more concretely about what the rest of policing should look like and how that could be reformed.

You brought up homelessness. In many cities police are tasked with dealing with people experiencing homelessness — but they don’t have many options besides basically moving people or arresting them.

Well, we’ve created this situation where our political leaders have basically abandoned the possibility of actually housing people. Which, of course, is the real solution, supportive housing for those who need extra support. But basically, we have a massive failure in housing markets that is unable to provide basic shelter for millions of Americans.

So instead of actually addressing that fundamental problem, we have relabeled it as a problem that is the fault of the disorderly people who we label as morally deficient. And then we use police to criminalize them, to control their behavior and to reduce their disorderly impact on the rest of us. And this is perverse and unjust. So then it places police in this completely untenable situation, because they completely lack the tools to make this problem any better. And yet we’ve told them it’s their problem to manage. …

Part of our misunderstanding about the nature of policing is we keep imagining that we can turn police into social workers. That we can make them nice, friendly community outreach workers. But police are violence workers. That’s what distinguishes them from all other government functions. … They have the legal capacity to use violence in situations where the average citizen would be arrested.

So when we turn a problem over to the police to manage, there will be violence, because those are ultimately the tools that they are most equipped to utilize: handcuffs, threats, guns, arrests. That’s what really is at the root of policing. So if we don’t want violence, we should try to figure out how to not get the police involved.



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