The Policing Controversy, Part Two

Police Officers or Peace Keepers?

 Police violence against child

In my last post, (http://deephum.com/the-policing-controversy/), I said:

The police have often (not always) become an “occupying” force for some elements of our population bringing harsh consequences for minor misbehavior while protecting not only the lives and property of the upper and middle classes, but shielding them from facing the consequences of illegal activity – especially in the case of their children.  (See below for documentation.) And of course, there is the problem many of us have with the increase of military type equipment in our police departments.

What should the role of the police be?

First, maybe we need to stop calling them “police officers.” I think what we call ourselves makes a difference in how we behave. They are sometimes referred to as “peace officers”, a term first used in 1649.  If they see themselves as spreading peace, rather than as catching villains, they might not be as ready to see others as villains.

And maybe we shouldn’t use the word “officers” which has a military edge to it. According to Wikipedia, “An officer is a person who has a position of authority in a hierarchical organization.” We’re supposed to be a democracy, not a “hierarchy”.

How about “peace keepers”?

Newark Police Department detective Michelle Cote, left, lets 4-year-old Kevin Maresca wear her cap during a visit to Ironbound Community Corp Preschool, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, has partnered with PSEG to develop "Let's Get Ready: Planning Together for Emergencies" and "Here For Each Other: Helping Families After Emergencies" emergency preparedness and response initiatives in English and Spanish. These apps will help families talk with their children about preparing and dealing with emergencies. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Second, we must insist that our “peace keepers” have training in non-violent approaches to people with special needs.  Far too many people with special needs have been killed by police when there was no need.

Third, we must educate our “peace keepers” in the cultures of people from all the different ethnicities that make up our communities.  Yes, ethnic studies.

And fourth, let’s make their uniforms less intimidating and more friendly.  During the 1960’s when I attended my first protest march in Berkeley, the Berkeley police wore khaki uniforms.  They lined the march, but seemed friendly and protective.  We got to the Oakland border and the police were wearing black uniforms and swinging bully clubs.  To me, at 22 years old, they were very frightening.  If the police are working for us, they should not appear frightening to us.

We spend lots of time teaching our police how to shoot a gun, how to physically restrain people, ramping up their adrenal reactions to situations, and very little time training them how to approach a situation slowly and calmly, how to read the body language of people with a different cultural background than their own, and yes, how to take the “flight” reaction rather than the “fight” one when faced with “flight or fight” situations.  Simply moving to a protected place from which to negotiate with someone who is out of control rather than shooting them seems much more logical to me.

Our jails are full of people with mental illness. Why are they there instead of in institutions designed to help them? Our jails are full of very young men who behaved stupidly, as teenagers of all races and ethnicities are apt to do.

Interesting that black and brown boys are in jail, and the white ones released to their parents. The police are the first in line to effect this, often taking kids down to the station and calling their parents. Judges, of course, are second in line here giving probation or community service to white boys and jail to black kids.  (See corroborating articles listed below.)

Who wants to be a police officer?  It would be interesting to interview various officers to find what drew them to policing? There are many good officers out there. Why did they join?

We also know that there are many who join because they want the power and the gun. These folks need to be weeded out. Our “peace keepers” need to cease being a symbol of authoritarian power and start being a symbol of someone who can help – for all peoples, not just the wealthy and the white.

Please feel free to add your suggestions on policing in the comments or on my posting of this article on Facebook or Twitter.  My next post will continue the discussion.

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558  https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/ *https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

The Policing Controversy

(Important to know as you read this: I am an older white woman of privilege, born in 1943, so these early memories of police encounters come from the nineteen- forties.)

One of my earliest memories – I must have been three or four years old – is of following the wrong coat out of a department store in a town twenty or so miles away from my home town. I had been playing under the dresses on a rack of clothes my mother was looking at. I saw the hem of her coat move away from the rack and followed it out the door of the store. When the woman in the coat turned around and looked at me, I realized she was not my mother.

She gave me a strange look and walked away.

I don’t remember what happened next, I just know that the next memory is of being in a police station – it was a small round building, I think, and white – and sitting inside with the nice policemen eating an ice cream cone waiting for my mother to come pick me up.

In later years my mother and I talked about this event, but I don’t remember being aware of the sheer terror my mother must have felt – that I certainly would have felt – when she looked under the rack of clothes and I wasn’t there. The only moment of terror I remember was when I looked at the woman’s face and she wasn’t my mama and she wasn’t smiling.

I do remember feeling happy with the policemen at the police station.

I know in the neighborhood where I grew up, the role of the police was to make sure the “wrong” people didn’t come into our neighborhood. My father worked for a publishing house. I must have been around eight one night when an author who was coming to our house for dinner was picked up by the police as he walked to our house from the train station. They were polite to him. Asked him where he was headed and gave him a ride to our house, coming to the door with him.

“Why did they do that,” I asked my father, feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing.

“They were just making sure that he really belonged here,” he assured me. The author was a white Englishman who lived in India. I remember that his clothes didn’t look quite the same as an American businessman which probably drew the attention of the police. He wasn’t wearing the uniform of the privileged men of our neighborhood.

Imagine if he’d been black.

Today I live in a traditionally black neighborhood  in Berkeley, CA that is being gentrified.

On my neighborhood elist there has been a lot of discussion about “police.” Many are concerned because people are not applying for police jobs in our community (and apparently in many, many other places) and our police department is understaffed. Some people attribute this to Black Lives Matter and the restrictions placed on police. (Actually, the restrictions have been there. What is different is the call for enforcement of those restrictions.)

Some don’t think that more policing is the answer. Some don’t want any police at all.

There hasn’t been a lot of discussion on my neighborhood elist about the role of police.

Historical research shows police have traditionally been about protecting the rich. In the south policing came about from the slave patrols who chased down runaway slaves. In England the first police were “marine police” who were protecting the cargoes of ship owners. (https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/history-policing-united-states-part-1)

In his article, Guardians or Warriors? The Changing Role of Law Enforcement, Timothy Roufa says:

When the concept of a uniformed police force was first championed by Sir Robert Peel in London in the early 1800s, he was met with much resistance due to fears of what would essentially be a standing army within the city; comparisons were made to police as a government-sanctioned occupying force. The problem of how to enforce laws while preserving rights is not at all new. (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558)

It’s clear to me that this has become a real problem. The police have often (certainly not always) become an “occupying” force for some elements of our population bringing harsh consequences for minor misbehavior while protecting not only the lives and property of the upper and middle classes, but shielding them from facing the consequences of illegal activity – especially in the case of their children.  (See below for documentation.) And of course, there is the problem many of us have with the increase of military type equipment in our police departments.

What should the role of police officers be?

I will continue this discussion in my next posts. Please send me your suggestions and ideas through the comments section or on my facebook or twitter link to this post.

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558
https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/*https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

 

March for Our Lives and the March for the Dance of Life

Last Saturday I listened to the speakers at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on the radio.  I laughed, I cried, I clapped my hands to one, four, and ten.  I tried to sing along to “We Will Shine.” I wasn’t there, but I joined the march where I was.

I have marched before, for women, for Black Lives Matter, and many years ago for the Civil Rights Movement, and over, and over again during my long life for the end of some particular war. Marches have brought me hope, which is probably why the climax of my mystical fantasy novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, is a march by a group called One Earth Together that is joined by people all over the earth.  Each group has its own song, its own particular story, and its own Tla Twein. (See my last post, Exploring Your Tla Twein).

For instance, an “island nation” is described:

“… another group swept in, a deep red and black sparkling with bright colors pouring into the amphitheater like lava from a volcano, their island song flowing like an undercurrent through the songs of the others.

We are the land in the sea, sun cooled by sea breeze.
Bright blossoms, many-colored joy,
mirrored in darting fish, corals, and anemone,
in the depths of the clear blue sea.

We come from our creator-destroyer,
fierce goddess, dark beauty,
erupting in fire from the deep,
flowing in red-yellow rivers,
pouring in black writhing smoke,
building our soft gentle island
our land in the sea.

Protect our island. Protect our sea.
Come, our tempestuous island goddess,
pour your fierce love,
fierce and fiery love, into me.

We come from creation-destruction.
In death, new life will be.
We risk death in defiance.
A sacrifice, so Gaia can be freed.

As they sing their songs they are swept up to Ninas Twei, the mystical world of the Dance of Life, the place where all the species dance together to ensure the continuance of life on earth.

You can join in singing and dancing one of these climatic songs by going to http://earthwomantreewoman.com/index.php/arise/  The words are:

Arise, arise, Open your heart!
Open your heart to the Dance of Life.
Arise, arise, Open your eyes!
See the world in the Dance of Life.
Beat your feet
To the beat of your heart!
Dance the Dance of Life!

Peace, peace, Laughter and dance!
Joy and life for us all.
Sing your tears, Sing your fears,
Defy oppression through the years,
Dance the Dance of Life!

Arise, arise, Open your heart!
Open your heart to the Dance of Life.
Arise, arise, Open your eyes!
Dance the Dance of Life!

Read more about the Dance of Life in The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and through independent book stores everywhere.

Want to know more about your Tla Twein? (see last post, Exploring Your Tla Twein) If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area I am holding a workshop where we can explore our Tla Twein through dance, song, art and poetry on April 28th from 2-5 pm in Oakland.  Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.