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Why Defund the Police? A Story

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/07/04/why-defund-police-story

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With all that I have witnessed over decades since,
I yearn for Sheriff Andy Taylor to take the call.
I’ve seen too many scenes that made me wince,
Troubled souls and samaritans made to fall.

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When I was 16 and had just got my driver’s license, I was out in my car at night with my brother and a couple friends.

As I was driving down the road, I came upon a cop who had pulled someone over on the right side of the road. As I was passing this scene, I increased my speed to get past, went up a street and turned.

The next thing I know, I see a cop’s flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I pull forward, find a place to pull over and turn off the car.

The cop stops behind me, jumps out of his car and rushes up to my window which I was rolling down

He says angrily, “Why did you speed up as you passed me?”

I said to him, “I wanted to get past you, and I was under the speed limit.”

He then almost yelling at me said, “But you could have lost control of your car.”

Calmly, I responded, “Officer, I was in complete control of my car.”

This seemed to make him even madder. Almost spitting the words out, he said, "Well, I’m about to lose control right now. License and Registration."

I complied, he returned to his car and wrote me up a ticket with the infraction, "Speed Greater Than Reasonable."

What a bullshit charge.

My first ticket.

Not my first encounter with a cop. That’s another story for another time.

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Yes! It is time to institute new programs that deal with the mentally ill and many other social issues. If police are focused on crime (and are called in on other issues), too many matters that are not criminal at all, are seen through that lens.

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A sort-of corollary is that too many matters were declared criminal which should not me. Basically creating crimes, usually property crimes, for practices which were not criminal before. These crimes are designed to protect the rich and powerful with their control and their possessions from the rabble beneath them (us [sub-category: peasants, also groups which were formerly slaves and to which we would be returned in a blink of a corporate eye if or when “they” can declare it]).

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Mention programs like Medicare for All and the groupthinkers immediate response is we can’t afford it and we need to debate it … forever.

Mention police or military budgets and the groupthinkers add 20% to whatever amount was requested and accuse anybody who wants to discuss the issue of being a traitor and guilty of treason. That is the reality in murka ever since Saint Ron ascended the throne in 1981.

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To me defunding is not necessarily about that, but the militarization of the police and also as you say funding for other solutions.
But here’s the thing, it’s dangerous on the streets specially with the guns, but even without.
I’m an American living in Norway, where guns are not as prevalent.

One day, shortly after a year after we moved into a house that shared a wall with another our quiet neighbor, in cold rainy weather started acting strangely. We noticed he went out to the driveway, rooted through his garbage can, dumping garbage on his driveway. Back in the house, later came out, he was buck naked and started doing “aggressive pushups” in his driveway. Went back in and we heard lots of noises, throwing things, etc. then out again more naked garbage on his driveway, more pushups. I was worried, and went out to him, walking along the hedges didn’t know what I was going to say, just trusted words would come. He was still naked doing pushups.
I hunkered down at the edge of his driveway and asked if he was ok, said we were worried for him, was there anything we could do.
He suddenly looked relieved. Shyly he said maybe we could call a ambulance for him. I said sure we could, and told him he ought to go inside and warm up (really cold rain) and I would call.
But even in Norway, I did call the ambulance service but had to describe the situation. Was very disappointed and felt I had let him down when a police car showed up. I talked with them, they said ambulances were it allowed to respond to things like this without police, as they could be dangerous. They were kind police though. They asked me to accompany them to knock on his door. For a second my mind flashed on “what if he answers in a tux or something, and claims he never was it there” but he had gotten dressed and saw relieved that they had come. Eventually they called an ambulance.
The police handled ihim gently and professionally and with compassion. Police in Norway ALL have three years of college, bachelors degrees, and consistent (four training colleges in the country with the same curriculum. No others) training. THAT is the biggest difference. After police called an ambulance, and took him my wife and I went over and cleaned up his trash, and saw he had thrown his tv and other things through his window. He needed help, he didn’t know exactly how to get it, and he did all these things to get attention. We did find scisssors in among the trash, sharp and not damaged. That would have been scary.
Months later I saw him on the street, he came up and thanked me.

But in the US it seems like the haphazard and patchwork rules and regulations, some can become police with three months training, and there is no one curriculum. Three years also give training centers the chance to evaluate over time of a candidate has the right temperament. Training in psychology, in people’s rights, in treating situations by de escalation all help. The US is a hodgepodge in this.
But even here, they won’t send out a mental health team without first making sure the person is not dangerous.

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i’m white male who’s had a few unpleasant police encounters too, ponyboy. one time i was simply walking through a wealthy neighborhood, looking like a hippy, when a cop decided to pull over and harass me. another time i was in a ‘bad’ neighborhood and the same thing happened. i was arrested when i tried to leave without answering his questions, and spent a night in jail. a couple of other incidents, as well, i won’t bother going into.

cops are assholes. they only ‘protect and serve’ the wealthy and those who love to kiss the ass of ‘authority’. defund!

In a free country, and legally in the US as well, NOBODY should have to explain WHY they are somewhere in public. Everyone has a right to walk on sidewalks, drive in areas they don’t live in, and nobody should be pressed, as cops often do, to give some “reasonable” excuse as to why they are somewhere. It’s as if cops think you have to go from A to B with a purpose, and not even deviate from the straightest line.
That is not a sign of a free country.

As another American no longer living in the US, I’m glad that it’s coming to light that compared to many other countries, the way American police officers are conceptualized and trained is much closer to bouncers at dance clubs than cops. A proper education and training process would allow for a large number of unfit potential cops to be spotted and removed from the system, reducing the number of police who are just problems waiting to happen. That all by itself would be a huge improvement. But just defunding the police will not be enough. The entire legal system needs to be redesigned in the US, away from protecting the property rights of the wealthy towards protecting all citizens. And that won’t happen until the entire Power Structure of the US is dismantled and (finally) is geared towards the common citizen, and away from the elite wealthy minority.