Calls to defund police, not the answer we need
Mon, 06/22/2020 - 8:29am classified@mont...
Melissa Orrell, Reporter
Over the years of my life I have known many police officers. Some were great men and women who dreamed of being law enforcement since they were little and have gone into the profession for the noblest of reasons: to keep their community safe. Others fell into the role, many after serving in the military, the lack of a “band of brothers” evident in the civilian world but present in a police departments and other emergency response organizations. Others that I have known, haven’t been so great in the role. Let me preface all of this by saying I didn’t know the local law enforcement when I was a teenager growing up here or while I was away for almost 20 years. Most of the law enforcement I have known has been in other places. I will also be the first to admit that some people are good at hiding what is in their heart, but overall, the law enforcement personnel I have known have mostly been good men and women who just want to serve their communities and keep everyone safe.
I have been lucky enough to get to know Monticello Police Chief Jason Akers during my time as the reporter and editor for the Advance. His vision for the Monticello Police Department and the role it plays in the community is one I can get behind. While I am obviously not at the Police Department very often and I don’t know what happens all the time, I do trust the Chief and the supervisors he has on the force and once again, I am impressed by the forward thinking of Akers and the Monticello Police Department. With protesters around the country calling for reforms and to “defund” the police, Akers quietly went to work on a policy to further protect the citizens of Monticello without prompting by a state or national agency or order to do so.
The new policy is one that backs up and reaffirms each officer’s duty to protect all citizens at all times, especially during an arrest or interaction with the police department. Part of the commentary surrounding George Floyd’s death during an arrest by Minneapolis Police was the fact that several officers were present and did nothing, although there has been reports that one of the officers asked if Floyd should be rolled to his side. The inaction of the other officers present is one of the actions or inactions of that day that so many find incomprehensible.
The new policy, written by Akers, will ensure that all of the Monticello Police Officers, have the right, with no fear of retaliation, to call for medical help for anyone who has contact with the police, whether the supervisor approves the move or not. It allows other officers to step in when they feel there is need to, without fear of losing their job. It further empowers each officer to serve and protect while being protected themselves.
As a military veteran, I understand the chain of command and how hard it can be to “step out of formation” and put a halt to something that may not be right. Even with the oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic,” going against orders is tough for a person that puts their safety and their life in their partner’s hands every day that they go to work. To have a policy that will protect an officer from disciplinary action for following their gut instinct and standing up for a citizen when they feel it is necessary, puts an extra layer of protection, not only on the law enforcement personnel but also on any Monticello citizen that comes in contact with the MPD.
At the Prayer Rally earlier this month, Akers told the crowd, they aren’t THE Monticello Police Department but YOUR Monticello Police Department. A lot of times, someone’s first and only contact with a police officer is on the worst day or one of the worst days of their lives. When things are going great, you may not need the police, maybe the only contact some will have with the Police Department is during a simple traffic stop, but others (and maybe you) will need them when emotions and tensions are already high. Having officers with the ability and protection to defend a suspect or someone who may have to be detained, maybe for their own safety in some cases, is definitely a reform I can get behind.
When we give our officers the tools they need to succeed and the tools needed to serve and protect, even from one another, we are moving in the right direction. I can not get behind calls to defund the police. I have had situations where I absolutely needed the police to protect me and my children. I have needed the police to investigate and help me protect my children. I can not imagine a world where we set ourselves up to not have protection against the ones in this world who want nothing more than to hurt others. The Police Department is an organization formed by and run by humans. One truth we absolutely know is no human on this earth is perfect. Our law enforcement officers aren’t either. They are people with flaws. We are all people with flaws. I could list many organizations with flawed histories. Flawed histories of racism, sexism and any other phobia and discrimination you can imagine have at one time or another run rampant in many organizations that we praise and revere. The United States Military being one. We didn’t defund or abolish the military. We are reforming it. It still isn’t perfect, the United States Marine Corps just recently banned the confederate flag on bases. Could you imagine being a person of color and having to stop by your boss’ house to drop something off and when they opened the door their was a huge confederate flag hanging up behind them? This was a scenario that was very real to many Marines until the past week. I don’t think you would have much confidence in that boss (or Staff Non-commissioned Officer) to be fair to you. I experienced the same scenario when I was in the USMC but instead of a Confederate Flag, I was greeted by posters of half naked and sometimes naked women.
I want you to think about that for a minute, while I was speaking to a person who I was supposed to trust, respect and take orders from, I was subjected to jokes, stories and images that showed exactly what that person thought about women. And it wasn’t good. The Marines United Scandal that broke a few years ago showed the culture in the USMC against female Marines was more prevalent than I even realized or experienced in the late 1990’s. Marines United was a private facebook group where active duty and Marine veterans shared photos of women in various states of dress. Some photos were of the Marines’ wives and girlfriends. While much of the focus was on the private photos shared, there were many other worse forms of behavioral issues shown by the members of the group. One active duty female Marine was photographed while picking up her issued gear after checking in to a new unit. She was wearing her cammies. The comments on the site were bad. What they would do if they were there. Another female Marine had her photos stolen from her social media accounts and her phone number stolen from official Marine duty rosters and shared to the group. She then received threatening text messages. Her command did nothing. But we didn’t defund or throw out the Marine Corps. Instead, Marines were punished, new rules for social media were enacted and all Marines had to agree to the new rules or face punishment for not doing so. The commandant of the Marine Corps made a Marine Corps wide message emphasizing the importance of female Marines and the value of female Marines.
You will never hear me say any organization is perfect but I do not believe defunding the police is the answer. Retraining, yes, that needs to be done, change in policies, absolutely, but none of these things work without punishment for those who do not follow the policies and without policies that protect those within an organization who stand up for the weak. The Monticello Police Department’s new policy will ensure that protection for their officers and that is a good thing.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” Edmund Burke.