Police are asked to do too much, need more services in mental health, CPS, housing

Posted 11 July 2020 at 5:04 pm


False, nasty, demeaning, wildly inaccurate political trash used to mark the last few months before an election. In the last couple of decades rabid politics has become a year-round blood sport. The least informed become outspoken experts with the “final” word.

Currently “Defunding” the police is a politically nonsensical term and the attacks on it equally foolish. Calling reorganization “defunding” is as crazy political double speak as the political nonsense which says “tax cuts pay themselves.”

We are in the middle of rethinking police strategy, public services, and community improvement. I write simply to flesh out  some background (and a bit of opinion) for consideration.

With the federal budget cuts of the ’80s costs got pushed down stream and onto states, property taxes went up to cover the federal share while services were cut back.

As a result we have been looking for 40 years to the police to solve more problems which exceed their training.

Many of the better police concepts go back to the ’60s with formalized  ideas “distributed specialization” and “community policing.” “Stop and frisk” police theory is a military-type theory that is cheaper. That is because the stop in part depends on suspicion and on someone looking “suspicious.” It proved to be ripe for racists and for racist justifications.

Stop and frisk theory came along in the ’80s at the same time as those budget cuts and quickly became popular.  But it reversed gains in race relations and in retrospect made matters worse.

You get what you pay for. The recent failures of departments trained to be rough and ready really demonstrated the difference.

There are increasingly good examples of how well rethinks can work. In New York, Child Protective Services or Probation are often called first. If the police need CPS it’s there 24-7. And you certainly have seen that in other areas where police have crisis management, mental health, emergency housing, domestic violence experts, community health centers in support roles – and all sometimes in lead roles.

Right now police go into schools to help keep kids straight but, frankly, there is a huge national shortage of school psychologists who are better trained to address juvenile problems. I hope you get the point. It’s not a put down. It’s about being the best at what you are trained for.

Frankly it will cost more.

This rethink will be hard fought – particularly by those with the least knowledge or the most to lose. In Camden NJ, for example, the union was so dirty/criminal/ (there will always some in any group) that the department had to dismantle to void the union contracts and start over. In the end it worked extremely well.

As to the merits and types of things to talk about I already mentioned a few but also we know better mental health access correlates with less crime. Almost any increase in income correlates with reduced crime – education, sex education, vocational training, public work projects, and higher police wages and training all make for safer, better, communities. All should be talked through.

Catching up to where we were will not be simple, quick, or cheap. It’s just needed.

The biggest impediment is, I think, that tax increases on multi-millionaires will be needed to reclaim our communities. I could be wrong but with the low mean and medium income here in Orleans County if we go back to the old federal funding model, the income tax effect here may be minimal and our property tax could go down. It does require the federal government to step up and once again to make it work. (That is not to say that Congress must do better at floating the economy as red states Covid drags the economy down. It has to!)

I just heard a great example of a rethink from Korea. During demonstrations – very frequent there like France – the police shoot looters with indelible paint balls. Then they take a week or two picking them up and convict them on the body cam footage. There are a wealth of ideas to talk through.

Conrad F. Cropsey