Editor, Casa Grande Dispatch:
I think it is important to speak up on an issue that is being distorted and used intentionally for divisive purposes. It begins with a misleading term, prominently displayed in the marches and demonstrations, stemming from the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. Among the messages calling for social justice there were signs advocating “Defund the Police.” There is a growing movement, advocating reform and reinventing how community and local policing is organized.
I strongly support local law enforcement. I also recognize that there is a disturbing history across this country where abuse and unnecessary force is well documented. In addition to the need to address racial bias, police brutality and use of deadly force across this country, it is also necessary to de-construct and re-align departments to address underlying social issues. Let’s not turn away from this opportunity for positive change. We can and should aspire to do better and be better.
We could interweave law enforcement with drug intervention specialists, mental health and social work professionals, resource personnel to assist homeless persons with food, shelter and employment opportunities, homeless youth and gang intervention specialists. These resource specialists would not displace officers. They would work cooperatively in the best interest of victims, perpetrators and the community. Such a partnership would allow officers to pursue serious criminal matters and to go after those who pose a threat to the community, themselves or others.
The current and costly focus on incarceration could be greatly reduced by shifting the focus to an outreach, hand-up, second chance approach. If there are any questions about scene security, officers could respond in coordination with other professionals.
Such reform would be life changing for many, supportive of family unit cohesiveness rather than separation, and redeeming for those who are given an alternative to incarceration.