DC Edit | Safety not so much as policing

With protests following Floyd’s death claiming around 18 American lives, discussions are on as to how to accomplish the aforesaid reform

With the Minneapolis City Council members proposing dismantling of the city’s police department, calls to defund police have gathered speed. George Floyd’s death on the evening of May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin, since arrested and charged with murder, knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, asphyxiating him, has exposed the inherent racism and casual brutality of the force.

With protests following Floyd’s death claiming around 18 American lives, discussions are on as to how best to accomplish the aforesaid reform. The inflated budgets of various police forces — the Minneapolis police department’s is US $189 million — has outraged Americans, especially at a time when health workers are having to recycle masks and gowns. The Minneapolis city council is planning to shift this money to social and health services, education and housing.

Minneapolis has 900 officers in its ranks and yet representation of the African American community therein is next to nil. This has sparked calls to recruit more African Americans in various city police departments. Meanwhile, US Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris and others have tabled the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill bans chokeholds and military-style no-knock warrants.

Importantly, law enforcement is not the only job of the American police. Safety is the greater goal. That involves attending to distress calls round the clock and a philosophy of helping those in need and saving lives, which in itself is a pointer for the Indian police who are infamous for their excesses and atrocities.

Experts, however, are now suggesting dispatching mental health professionals to cover mental health crisis calls, the fire service to overdose calls, and cameras to enforce traffic laws, leaving a leaner force to take on robberies. But the bottomline is that when it comes to tackling crime, community-based models for safety and prevention — as being put forward by policymakers — can’t obviate the need for policing.

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