Years ago, as a naive but well meaning 30-something, I was walking and talking with a Black woman in her neighborhood, one of the poorest in Tidewater Virginia. When she mentioned some recent problems with crime in the area, I asked why she didn’t call the police. She snorted and said, “They are not our friends” and then went on to explain why.
Her words shocked me, but I also learned something: not all Police see themselves as public servants. Some see themselves as an occupying force: “Us vs. Them.” And, just like in any war zone, that breeds fear and hate. Occupiers are not granted trust or respect.
With my eyes opened to this reality, it is distressing – and angering – to see just how prevalent this is in communities all over the country. I am not at all surprised to see this anger boiling over now, it’s been a long time coming.
And, this is why many are so vehement about “Defund the Police.” Their only experience of Officers of the Law is as an occupying and abusive militaristic force imposed upon them. In their entire lives, and in the lives of everyone they know, the police have never been helpful, or supportive, or protective – just as an enemy.
So, why would anyone support such an oppressive and heavily armed force in their neighborhood? I wouldn’t. The basis for their anger is obvious and overwhelmingly justified.
My own personal experience (as a white male) has been that most Police Departments in this country are well run. I believe the vast majority of Police Officers are skilled, conscientious, caring professionals. It is one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs around, and I deeply respect all officers and the enormous pressures and risks they face every day.
The call to #DefundThePolice is not a call to eliminate policing from our communities, but a call to replace and rebuild from the ground up those Police Forces that have abdicated or failed in their duties and obligations to the communities they serve. #DefundThePolice is not just in the best interest of our own people – regardless of color, wealth, gender or any other factor. It is also in the best interest of our police, and of the nation as a whole.
Detroit Free Press Opinion: It’s time to restructure police departments so they truly serve and protect.