In recent days, there has been a spotlight on policing in North America and the tragic consequences of some officers’ actions.
Let’s put the situation into perspective. There are more than 700,000 police officers in North America dealing with the public. I would argue the vast majority of police officers are good, decent people who are trying very hard, under difficult circumstances, to protect the community.
What we’ve seen over the past few weeks is a small percentage of police officers that have gone too far in their duties. However, calls to defund the police are a visceral response that may have dire consequences. There are bad people in every profession, but when we hear about the teacher, massage therapist or doctor who abuses someone in their care, there are no calls to defund education or medicine.
Not all of society’s problems can be solved with increased social funding. Certainly, social programs need more funding, but not at the cost of policing. There has been some discussion about sending social workers to handle mental health calls because police are not trained in that area – the recent case of police in Edmundston, N.B. killing a woman after she allegedly brandished a knife serves as a tragic example. Recall, however, the case of Deborah Onwu, who was allegedly stabbed to death by her teen client in a dispute while working as a caseworker at an assisted living residence in Calgary.
Police are heroes who, in the name of protecting others, run toward dangerous situations that many of us would run away from. Constable Heidi Stevenson was killed trying to protect Nova Scotians during a mass shooting. Constables David Ross, Fabrice Georges Gevaudan and Douglas James Larche were killed in Moncton, N.B. while pursuing a man who was walking the streets, shooting people. Constable David Wynn was shot and killed at a St. Albert, Alta. casino during a routine license plate check. The list goes on.
Rather than defund the police, I would like to see more training for police on the appropriate use of force and how to deal with members of diverse communities. I would even suggest examining whether police officers need guns. In most of the United Kingdom, only some specially trained officers carry firearms.
There are numerous excellent police officers in North America who are trained to serve and protect the public. There is a small number who have let their powers go to their heads and use their position to act out based on their racial biases. They should be dealt with severely, but let’s not paint all these brave men and women with the same brush. Instead, let’s have a thoughtful discussion on how we want the police to protect us.