Guest columnist Jennifer Delozier: Fund police differently, but don’t defund

Published: 6/29/2020 10:31:48 AM

I would like to see police differently funded as opposed to defunded. Perhaps that is easy for me to say as a white person of privilege.

There are recruiters, the academy, on the job and precinct training and preparations, and a variety of uniforms displaying rank, achievements, and, often, inappropriate tenure.

The presentation of these qualities when they relate to excellence in a profession are sometimes rewarded. But what if they shouldn’t be? What if they represent something else that begins and ends with fear, discrimination and injustice? Who wins? No one. Who is to blame?

To me, differently trained police means having mental health professionals on the payroll, as well as professionals who deal with job stress, classism, racism, sexism, political and social injustice, and what it means to hopefully serve from a position of compassion and harmlessness for all. Those two need to be included.

But would it be ludicrous to state that we can reach the way of compassion and harmlessness when people of color are already at an extreme and severe disadvantage that can lead to death?

I will not go too far out on a limb here. But I think it is necessary that we pursue an attitude of looking carefully. Many police officers are probably filled with fear when they consider what might happen to them as they step out the door and go to their job and its accompanying responsibilities. But, to me, that is incomparable to the fear that people of color must feel as they step out of their homes to go about their daily lives wondering if they will return home safe and alive.

From the time young girls and boys, the majority of who are white and privileged, declare that they want to be police officers like their moms, dads, and relatives. It becomes part of their educational process.

What are they exposed to as they grow up? The best and the worst of the police. TV shows are one of the best examples of the worst of policing procedures; officers doing whatever they want to do to “correct” a situation and get the “criminals” off the street. That is the unspoken bias that covertly and overtly exists.

What is presumed is that the police are operating in self-defense or to protect the community. I would say they are protecting their image for the not-so-hidden agenda of what they consider as law and order. By whose definition? In the case of George Floyd and others, can it be law and order, and not really the “criminals” they are after. Who are the criminals here?

Do the following examples show the best of the profession? Who would we want to come to our aid if there was a robbery in our home or at our place of business? How about a car accident? I would want caring and professional individuals to help with the situation, putting people’s lives first instead of making assumptions that someone needs to be shot. Especially if those involved are people of color.

This is what I hear when I am doing deep listening and paying attention to the calls of protest that exist today; the calls which represent demands for systematic change that can never exonerate the past, but must begin to dramatically change the present and thus the future.

I consider myself a white ally who supports major change and non-violent upheaval, in demilitarizing the police force so that they can truly protect and serve all of us and abide by the calling for compassion and harmlessness. We are in a war started and supported by injustice and prejudice. We must never stop being vigilant in order to end it.

Jennifer Delozier lives in Easthampton.

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