To protect and serve or To empower and facilitate?
It’s the goal of a cop to keep the peace, yet the people we train to keep the peace are taught to maintain control and are trained to use violence techniques to keep that peace. The justification is that there is no better way, and they are mitigating the potential threat to themselves and others by doing this. The reality is very different, instead of deescalating situations they escalate them. It is the implied power, that necessary submission, and the threat to individuals pride which is what causes the problem. It actually goes beyond just the police and much of the responsibility for the violent culture we live in lies in the system we have created to combat it. The legal system is reactive, only after a crime has been comitted does the legal system have any say. The cops are hindered by this same idea, given that unless a crime is committed then they aren’t allowed to pursue. The idea of course is that a person isn’t guilty until proven innoccent, or rather that people are good at heart until proven bad. This though is a framework that is inherently negative rather then positive. If we assume you are good, but are looking for reasons to consider you bad, then it’s what you are looking for that you are going to find.
As you can guess, my perscrption for this is a reversal of the system, the laws, and the method by which we engage society. Indeed there are elements of policing that have taken to this. The idea of community policing is a part of this idea, but it’s a sub-portion of the entire problem. What is required is a framework that encourages and perscribes positive action on the part of the people and the peace keepers. I’m not suggesting we are going to be able to entirely eliminate a reactive, prosecutorial system, however if half the people in the police department were not carrying guns and holding power over the people, but rather considered community facilitators engaged in preventative services, education, and improvement, then I’m fairly sure the need for reactive based power would diminish exponentially.
Of course this is a dream right now, because what I’m talking about is a group of people who drive around in cars and don’t need emergency lights because they are their before the crime, people who use knowledge of the beauracracy to improve the living conditions, relations, and sense of community, people who’s power lies in there ability to resolve conflict through dialog. In order to make something like this happen, we would need to spend money small things and very large things. Take for example the homeless, instead of asking people for money, food, or fare, these people would engage and build a relationship with each of them. The point isn’t to throw money at the homeless and shuffle them away, but to rebuilt their pride, give them a goal, and facilitate their abilities. Not all of them can be helped either, as many have psychological issues that cannot be addressed with our current medicine, but rather then herding them off to site unseen corners of the city when VIPs walk into town, they could be truely helped when they want it.
Another example, take domestic violence. A majority of murders in the US, the murder capital of the world, are perpetrated by a person who’s known to the victim. Think of this as a conflict that started with an argument over soap, or a scuffed shoe, or not taking the trash out. An argument that has been going on for months, gets out of hand. One person starts yelling, another gets angry enough to throw a baseball, or pick up a bat, or push someone. No one wants to pick up the phone and call the cops, because the power they hold in this situation is one of arrest, one of physical presence, one of intervention that invokes a permanent record and can cause havoc on peoples lives during the legal process. It’s also impersonal, costly, and used as the method of last resort. What if instead we have an agency whose can be called with where the criteria is how many “saves” you made this month, how many tears of joy you caused? It’s an agency where people call when they have trouble but don’t know how to deal with it, where people can call for tools to improve. There goal is to purse conflict resolution, teach resolution skills, and we teach people to call before it gets out of hand, then follow through on build structures that improve the situation over the long term. It’s a place where failure is expected, but instead of ignoring it, failure is learned from and each re-lapse is one more step towards stability.
the frank reality of the situation is that law and the police cannot resolve even the major conflicts between parties in the united states. Rather people need to be taught to resolve their own conflicts.
This is not a utopia. This is the next evolution of man. We have options here the other species don’t. We can choose to learn and understand our biology, and break the feedback loops that are built into it, or we can continue to try and subugate it, making it fit into a model that it doesn’t fit.
I’m describing an agency full of tools to fix broken things, teach people about each other and how to get along, and be the grease in the mechanism of society. To me, right now, we force people to sink or swim because we think that the cream rises to the top, we think that we live in a merit based society where talent succeeds. We think that people will learn just by exposure, how to deal with race, how to deal with conflict, how to drive safely, and don’t believe that race, ethnicity, and most of all money has anything to do with how your kids will be treated. Think of all the situations that you avoid because you don’t know how something works so you are afraid of taking action on it, this would be the people you turn to when you need help.
DC has actually taken a step in that direction, which I think is interesting but doesn’t include ground pounders. Rather then calling 911 for minor emergencies or to notify the city about a problem, they now have 311 which is connected to the city wide call center. Have a question, want a trash can, need help soon but not immediately, call 311. It’s a great step in the direction I’m talking about, as these guys are at least designed to improve the flow of information between the citizen and the city which is improving the feedback loop.
The thing is that I know this vision is not something that this generation of people would ever likely accept. People really really don’t like change. They really don’t like change. We live in patterns of behavior that we enjoy and it’s part of our biological history to find safety in regularity and stability. Yet we live in a society that is changing, and has to change because we live in circumastanses that are not sustainable for many reasons. Social change, techological change, and our increase in general knowledge is changing at a pace that has never been seen before and it’s only getting faster. The irony of our unwillingness to change and our rapid change is reconcilable, but only if you realize that what change we are seeing is incremental. It’s compound change that happens slowly enough that it fades into the dull rumble of our lives. Just like compound interest can make you a millionare if you wait long enough, compound change will move moutains on spoonful at at time.