The issue of policing is not an easy one. Oh, sure, everyone likes to make it an either/or thing. You either support the police or you don’t support the police.
We know it is not that simple, but when making arguments everyone runs to one extreme side of the ledger or the other.
There is no question, at least the evidence is overwhelming, that the police treat blacks and Latinos differently. And part of that problem is that our police force is not nearly as diverse as it should be.
I was never a fan of this “defund the police” movement. Or rather, I should say, I was never a fan of the wording. Transitioning the police into doing the enforcement they are trained for and moving other responsibilities to other organizations more capable of doing them is a good and proper thing to do.
The police are asked to do way more than they should be asked to do. Mental health, social work, counseling … it is all in there and is just too complicated to put in the hands of the men and women trained to protect and serve. That burden adds to the stress of a dangerous job. But because of that stress and danger, we have to carefully evaluate regularly whether the men and women of the police force are, individually, up to the job. It is not a weakness to succumb to that enormous stress, but in such a highly visible and necessary job, we have to require a higher degree of fitness for the job.
Although the vast majority of police really care about the job they do, and truly do excellent work, there are still too many who take their legally protected use of force to the utmost extreme. There must be an avenue for removal.
Although we acknowledge that policing has bad actors, we handle what to do about it very badly. Doctors have bad actors as well, but if they get reckless or negligent, they can be sued personally and their licenses revoked.
In the situation of police, unfortunately, we have bent over backwards to protect them from being held accountable. Limited immunity is a mistake. The police internal “code” is a means of limiting legal actions. Police hide behind their own lines and seem to believe that giving up a bad cop will somehow put all of them in jeopardy.
That culture has to change. Laws have to change. Police tactics have to change. Police accountability has to change.
The interaction between police and the community has become toxic, not everywhere mind you, but in very visible places. The Minneapolis police force has a terrible record in this regard. The police union acts as though anyone outside of its bubble is an enemy. And I fully believe that its president, Bob Kroll, is the toxic example of this and he needs to go.
I also believe that reforming police funding is necessary as well. We don’t need to “defund” but we do need to reallocate. Get more of our resources and departments involved. All hands on deck, so to speak.
President Donald Trump has poisoned the ability to have these discussions. We need to do better, and the racial disparity has to end.
Dave Mindeman, of Apple Valley, is a retired pharmacist. His writing appears on MN Political Roundtable.
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)