Oh look, it's Officer Friendly!
This cartoon is "snark" for me, because this is how I deal with things sometimes, but with all of our issues regarding police, our needs and wants and our realities, and also not forgetting their needs and wants and realities, I still hold by my original idea. It may be wrong, and it is probably, almost certainly, more expensive in a time when no one wants to spend money to solve these issues. Then again, we seem to be able to afford all of this military crap, so maybe it's just about allocation of the funding.
Anyway, my idea (in addition to the decriminalization of drugs and the removal of prisons for profit) is that police have a forced rotation where they spend a significant amount of time doing community service. And by that, I don't mean idiotic programs like D.A.R.E., which are all about teaching kids what not to do or they will get arrested. Programs where police actually serve instead of look down upon the community from some position of glorified authority. At least 25% of their time, in fact, and that they do it in large chunks.
I think these breaks from the stress of police work will help to lower the incidence of PTSD. I think less folks with "hoorah chest-thump cowboy" mentality will join up if they know beforehand that they will have to do things like work in soup kitchens, candystripe, and advocate for the homeless so that they can find permanent shelter. I think we need more people in those inglorious positions, and that we would feel better, and possibly even safer, knowing that those whose job it is to "protect and serve" are instead, "serving and protecting." I think that somehow, we need to break the "us or them" mentality that exists between police and the public, in both directions, and while I'm not sure how to do that, I think that a conceptually well thought-out program might.
And, maybe not at first, this chunk of time might be when policemen weren't so festooned with weaponry and equipment that they look like a walking arsenal, which frankly is intimidating as fuck when you're a kid. I went to a school that had a pretty divided line between those with money and those without. While they always taught us that we should go to the police for any kind of assistance in school (that's the money and privilege side talking), as a child my only feelings about police have been first fear, and then later resentment, or maybe both.
My D.A.R.E. officer was the one who wrote my first police report, for running away, which I only did to convince my best friend at the time NOT to run away cross-country, rather, to tell someone that her step-father was coming into her room at night. Did it help? Her mother threatened her for potentially ruining her relationship. The world is a fucked up kind of place. (For those not in the know, D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and basically taught you "lighter drugs" like cigarettes or weed or alcohol, which I don't consider a light drug anymore, were gateway drugs to things like heroin and cocaine, and constantly stressed that addiction was possible the first time you used a drug. I learned not only quite a number of words of marijuana, but also the conceptual idea of cooking up crack from cocaine during a Q&A session; it also backfired, because when I discovered that I wasn't instantly addicted when I tried "light drugs", I decided they had also lied about things like crack, and thus here I am today. In essence, it was their own teachings that turned one set of drugs into the "gateway drugs" they perceived them to be.)
At 16, I was pepper-sprayed for being an eyewitness and doing no more than standing around, because an officer decided it was better to "spray everyone first and sort it out later." He had the spray out and ran past depressing the button; thankfully it wasn't a direct hit to my face, but since that stuff gets everywhere I still got a goodly portion in my eyes and nose. Can you blame me if my first instinct when in danger is not to call the police?
At 17, I went to the police after my (ex?)boyfriend raped me as I tried to break up with him. Did it help? Hell no, the whole legal ordeal was an epic nightmare, even just the police station was hell, as I sat in a chair all night long, picking his skin and blood furiously from under my fingernails (I DID fight), because they of course don't want you to wash, smelling of sweat and semen (once I just gave up fighting and let it be over with, he came on my face and hair), in a soiled dress, and when I expressed my exhaustion and wanting it to be over soon please, the officer in front of me just said, "well, you shouldn't have been up so late." In the end, my ex got probation with a suspended sentence and no jail time.
Yet there are so many good officers. Every night in Adams Morgan they are there, tirelessly having to deal with drunken fight after drunken fight, a neverending stream of harassment and argumentative resistance. They deal with thieves and vandals and drunk drivers. When the mentally ill gentleman in another popular neighborhood suddenly decided a random passerby was stealing his things (he'd walked too close to the plastic bags), it was one of the policemen on the corner, already involved in a traffic accident, who came over and gently diffused the situation. I have done security and it is no pleasant task from the other side. They are as stressed and unhappy as the people they are supposed to protect.
We need to fix this,
we need to start now,
and we need to do it for everyone.
There are no sides except humanity.
Either everyone wins,
or everyone loses.
The answer is in ourselves,
in healing, and in peace.
Please help me...or gods help us all.