2020-06-05 – One of the most frequent justifications I hear for keeping guns in your home is safety. People say they can’t rely on the police to protect their families from home invaders, so they turn to self-reliance.
They can’t rely on the police. (Here’s an example of that sentiment from the libertarian Reason Magazine.)
So it’s always seemed odd to me that the same people are often police boosters. I’m not saying that it is inconsistent. I’m a critic of the police, but I have had positive encounters with police and I don’t want people who risk their lives to protect me to be hurt—even if they are ineffective (or even counterproductive) in their stated mission.
The odd thing is the inability of these folks to get together with folks in minority communities who also can’t rely on the police. Something is very wrong if the folks whose mission it is to “serve and protect” are failing communities across the spectrum.
Maybe it’s time to get together to rethink what’s going on. So here’s my two cents on that:
Police are being asked to do too many contradictory jobs.
They are society’s violence specialists. I don’t say this to disparage. Society decided long ago that it didn’t want people walking around killing and injuring each other, so we created police forces to be the specialist who are allowed to use violence to prevent everyone else from doing so. It’s not working very well, but that was the idea.
When cars came on the scene, society decided to add to the policing job: traffic control. It was thought that, in addition to promoting traffic safety, the traffic control job would give police access to people’s cars. No one much likes being stopped for a traffic violation and we certainly don’t like police inspecting our vehicles when we’re stopped. But it’s their job.
Then there’s mental health. I’m not just talking responding to the crazy guy on the bridge threatening to jump. I’m also talking about domestic disturbances and drug enforcement. Yes, drug enforcement is a mental health problem, but at some point in history, it was decided to have police handle it.
With disastrous consequences.
And the list goes on. Police are invited into schools to keep kids safe. Police tag along on fire and ambulance calls to be of extra assistance. And politicians deploy police for their various political agendas. Think of a problem, and someone is there proposing that police solve it.
As a result, they can’t do their original mission of keeping us safe.
Maybe it’s time to reassess all this. I’m not sure that a cop with a badge and a gun can do all these things. Maybe mental health professionals should be funded to tackle. Maybe fire and ambulance staffing should be raised to adequate levels to do those jobs. Education should be handled by educators. And politics should be the job of politicians, not police.
You may have heard of efforts to “abolish police” or to “defund police.” Those terms sound scary and I certainly would not have used those words to describe what I just wrote about. They are words of anger. And words of anger are not always helpful in solving such a large problem.
At the same time, we need to listen to the anger. People are not being served by police as they are currently organized. People are dying. People are rotting in jails. And no one feels safe. Anger is a motivator. But it should lead us to do more than just lash out.
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