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Disbanding Police Departments?
Despite the growing anti-police narrative, the average officer represents the most selfless of Americans and puts their life on the line daily to make their communities safer. Time for some nuance.
Welcome to this issue of Self-Evident. Today, I put myself in the line of fire for what’s likely to be some pretty hostile backlash. But, as always, I believe strongly in pluralism and that all sides of an issue must be explored to arrive upon truly meaningful solutions. I’ll also touch upon some of the aspects of the systemic dysfunction our nation faces as well as offer a quick reflection on George W. Bush’s leadership almost twenty years ago.
Disbanding Police Departments?
In an unprecedented move, the Minneapolis City Council has voted to disband their police department. In its stead, they want to create a “community-led safety model.” Council members offered few details on how such a model could be feasible.
The Mayor of Minneapolis, meanwhile, is steadfast that reforms are needed but feels disbanding the police department altogether is both overly drastic and unrealistic.
For my part, I fear this action by the city of Minneapolis demonstrates that the tragic murder of George Floyd has been seized upon for justification of an intensely anti-police narrative. The idea of disbanding police departments can be added to many other drastic ideas of reform, such as slashing budgets and extreme requirements for the application of force, that would make the objective of policing communities and keeping the peace almost impossible.
It should be remembered that the object of reform is to end prejudice. This goal cannot be accomplished by introducing new forms of prejudice or by enacting punitive measures against police officers and law enforcement agencies, whose everyday bravery and service to the community go unnoticed while the disgusting actions of those who never should have put on a uniform make the headlines.
Peace and justice in a free society are achieved when each individual is judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin nor by the color of their uniform. Neither Derek Chauvin nor the officers who failed to intervene in his unlawful use of force reflect the over half a million police officers in the United States who are dedicated to community service and respond to hundreds of thousands of calls every day with no fanfare and predominantly without the use of force in their resolution.
Nor should it be the average line officer, who has carried out their duty with integrity, who should face the brunt of punitive action for any racism or prejudice that exists in a system of laws and policies they didn’t create, serially damaging their career and means of providing for their family through no fault of their own.
While police officers are the public face of our legal system, they represent only the enactment of law and public policy as handed down to them by elected officials and the judges and police chiefs they appoint.
It seems especially hypocritical that so many members of the Democratic Party have signaled their willingness to throw police officers under the bus for allegations of systemic racism when it is their party that has had economic and political control of the vast majority of America’s inner-cities for generations.
Those doing the most talking and signaling in the wake of George Floyd’s murder are, in fact, the ones who hire the police chiefs who administrate the departments, who gladly receive funds from police unions, and who craft the laws that police officers must enforce.
I can’t help but wonder why a political party, under whose watch systemic racism has been supposedly allowed to flourish and whose presidential candidate nevertheless believes deserves the singular loyalty of all African Americans, is not facing as much, if not more, criticism than the police officers and law enforcement agencies of municipal governments under Democratic control.
If our society is to take seriously the challenges we are presented with by the shock of George Floyd’s murder, then we should take seriously the responsibility to craft meaningful and responsible paths forward. Actions whose consequences risk making inner-city criminality and societal decay much worse and whose punitive echoes make a punching bag out of some of the most selfless among us are not actions derived from a constructive mindset.
What We Have Is Systemic Dysfunction
We have no single politician, news outlet, public figure, or institution to blame for the contentious spirit that currently grips our nation. Ultimately, we have lost a single necessary ingredient of free society that allows people of different beliefs and viewpoints to be able to function and live alongside each other: respectful disagreement.
These days disagreement is seen as a personal attack and a fundamental assault as opposed to simply a differing perspective. Instead of viewing someone's disagreement as an opportunity to broaden horizons and more fully comprehend the full spectrum of conclusions and rational thought, which different people are inevitably going to maintain on any given question, we have come to view disagreement as the way to spot the enemy.
That's why people shout down those they disagree with and why so many people become so offended when confronted with opposing thought. It's viewed as a challenge to their own beliefs and conclusions and an existential threat to their ideology and identity. With this response, it's natural to seek to silence and suppress those with dissenting viewpoints and it's natural to believe that those who voice disagreement do not deserve to be heard out and maintain no legitimacy.
Is it any surprise that in this atmosphere it is the bombastic, the crude, the aggressive, and even the violent who rise to power and influence?
A Quick Reflection on George Bush
Obviously, we're in a very complicated political era with emotions high on all sides. It's caused me to reflect a lot on previous Presidents, such as George W. Bush, and reconsider some of my previous criticism.
A lot of people, especially conservatives, gave Bush a bad rap and continue to criticize him as a RINO, a bumbler, or a wannabe despot. But I look at some of Bush's accomplishments and I have to wonder if all of the criticism we heap on him is fair.
After all, he united a nation in the face of tragedy in a way that seems almost impossible today. While George W. Bush is far more moderate than I am, I can’t help but wonder how his leadership may have navigated the crises we have seen this year. What would it be like to have someone at the helm trying to bring us together instead of adding to the noise that’s tearing us apart?
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