Dear Friends: The word “defund” troubles me when we talk about confronting our issues with the police. I believe many people from all racial backgrounds want some kind of police protection. Repeated horrific acts by police officers, now being filmed and exposed constantly, demonstrate the real need for major change. But will words like “defund the police” help as we move forward?
I have had two very different encounters with police which leave me with very different feelings. On the one hand, I spent a night in jail in 1967 after the police pulled me over on made-up charges. This was after the Pentagon march, and they were meeting their “get the activists” quota.
On the other hand, my husband and I raised a bipolar son. When he was sixteen and was waving a gun around, threatening suicide, I called the police. Two officers came at midnight and the younger officer talked for three hours with my son while he stayed holed up in his bedroom. The door was open, the gun was obvious, and the risk was continuous. At one point, the officer scooted our two younger children safely down the hall into our arms, where we hung away from the line of fire. Finally, this young cop persuaded our son to put down the gun and to exit the room.
While I do feel that the situation would have been handled best by a psychiatric or behavioral team, rather than by the police, that cop did fine. He saved at least one life that night, maybe seven (including my two other children, my husband, me, and the two police officers).
Words matter, concepts matter. Our anger at the horrors committed by police, primarily on people of color, justifies massive reform. But rather than promoting the message that we want to push the police entirely out of the way, I’d rather partner with them for change.
– Nancy Marshall, Phoenix Friends Meeting (IMYM)
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