'Defund the police' is wrong action for right goal: cops share views on how to evolve policing
|Whitney Fishburn||Oct 16|
vol. 2 issue 51
If you’ve been reading docu-mental for a while, you are aware that I don’t see the mondo bizarro criminal behavior of the current occupant of the White House as the cause of our national woes, but as the ultimate manifestation of our damaged collective psyche, the one we have forced for the past half century to carry the burdens of a patriarchal and thus hierarchical system predicated on an ethos of “to the winner goes the spoils”, and everything else as well.
And really, that is why I think cries of “defund the police” are useless. It is “old world”, not “new world”. The old world is angry and us v. them, and protestors and reformers who want to see changes in law enforcement but who do so in the same martial tones they oppose will get nowhere.
The new world is much more collaborative, forced as we have been to learn new ways to work together by the covid-19 crisis and by so many global catastrophes, including climate change-induced migration and dwindling resources.
But the new and old words do have some important things in common, the first being a shared history that must be healed, the one of systematic extermination and resources stolen from this continent’s indigenous peoples, and the enslavement of other human beings, namely black Africans.
The second is a need for some kind of enforceable structure and order. How else to build without a reliable scaffold?
In our current paradigm, LAW AND ORDER is yelled at us by red-faced and bullying federal and executive figureheads, which would be laughable except that the man in the White House is inciting violence in our streets, fomenting hatred between whites and others, and putting our law enforcement in the crosshairs of what many, myself included, fear will be a terrifying and violent election day and beyond.
That’s not funny in the least.
Yet, to me, it seems a last gasp at trying to stay in control when the skywriting just doesn’t seem to vaporize and vanish, the unmistakable message being “Time’s Up!” on hierarchy and iron-fistedness.
As a mother, despite the actual verdict, what I will always view as the cold blooded murder of Trayvon Martin still haunts me in particular, as I know that my son or any mother’s son would have had no reason to suspect that a handful of Skittles dribbled into his mouth as he innocently walked home from the convenience store one night, would be his last thanks to the derangement of a self-styled law and order gun nut; yet watching the lynching of George Floyd changed me forever.
It proved the tipping point for me to embrace publicly my growing personal ethos that I have been documenting here since I began in 2018 by trademarking and copyrighting my materials under docu-mental. My plan had been to document and explore solutions for the national increase in mental health crises, never suspecting that it would turn out I would be chronicling the end of extreme Capitalism.
And yet, as a practical minded, erstwhile Capitol Hill policy reporter who has written primarily about clinical medicine and healthcare economics for much of her career, I believe wholeheartedly it’s time to talk about things that aren’t quantifiable, and to insist that they not be relegated to the side lines as frilly and silly.
It’s not that I ever denounced it, but I was always too cowed to stand tall and say so, even though in my private life, I admitted it was true: this world needs more love, more softness, more feminine energy. Not more women per se, more Goddess.
And it needs the women in power to say so and demonstrate this, too.
There is nothing left but death when something reaches an extreme. Where else is there to go? Our system of Capitalism is at that point. It can take law and order with it as our system decays, leaving us vulnerable in an existential way. Alternatively, we can revive and reshape that masculine ideal buried under the propaganda we’ve heard in this nation for so long that “might makes right” and parlay that into what will work in the coming paradigm of peaceful collaboration: we can let our strong men and women in uniform be the ones who are vulnerable in an empowering way. We can humanize them.
And make no mistake, the new paradigm is coming; in fact, it’s here. How on earth will it be possible to crush and dominate in the old ways when this new virtual world’s power hierarchy is based on having access to others’ privacy and data, not their land and other resources? That is the new warfront, and it does not take shooting people or having the right skin tone to triumph; anyone can hide behind a digital screen, and anyone can steal your numerical soul and turn you into a digital slave. Yet, because the Information Age is free flowing, the hierarchy is easier to infiltrate.
Yet the need for familiar structures remains as we navigate the new ways of being. To me, that is an obvious call for our communities to focus on how to empower their respective law enforcement organizations to be flexible, breathable, ready to change as necessary.
In this video in the on-going series dedicated to healing the american states of mind, I speak with three people who know well how masculinity in the extreme has the ironic effect of eroding one’s masculinity, and perhaps even killing the person who bears the weight of it, maiming the souls and spirits of those left behind.
My guests are:
Chief John Morrissey of the Kenosha, Wisconsin Police Department (Ret). After 33 years as an officer, 28 of them in Kenosha, Chief Morrissey retired from the force in 2016, but is still intimately involved in what happens on the streets of Kenosha as city administrator, a job he took just before his hometown erupted in violence after three Black Lives Matter protestors were shot by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, killing two. While leading the police force, Chief Morrissey lost two officers to suicide in less than 6 months. Mr. Morrissey has been actively involved in suicide prevention since 2010. In 2017, he became leader of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Public Safety Taskforce. He also serves as a member of the Workplace Suicide Prevention and Postvention Committee, and is a member of the IACP National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide.
John Marx, CPP, was a law officer for 23 years, 19 of them as a hostage negotiator with the Westminster, Colorado Police Department. Marx is now the executive director of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and founder of CopsAlive.com. He is the author of several books and training manuals that take a wholistic approach to law enforcement training and wellness. When a fellow police officer and good friend of his committed suicide at 38, Marx decided to dedicate his life to helping law enforcement officers serve and protect by learning to first protect their emotional needs and those of their colleagues.
Sally Spencer-Thomas, PsyD, lead editor of the mental health for men series of books, Guts, Grit, & the Grind: A Mental Mechanics Manual, and the creator along with the Colorado Department of Health and others, of Mantherapy, a very funny series of videos challenging what it means to be manly and to hide emotions behind a moustache. Sally began her career studying the effect of trauma on first responders, and has been actively engaged in suicide prevention since her brother took his own life in 2004. She is now the president of United Suicide Survivors International.
The take-away from our conversation is that calls to defund the police or even to abolish it, as Colin Kaepernick is now doing through what I believe is his impressive and well-reasoned co-venture with the publishing platform Medium, LEVEL: Abolition for the People, are actually aimed at the same goal as many visionary law officers want to achieve: and end to lethal law enforcement encounters for black men, a reduction in violence overall, and a healthier citizenry through the direct involvement of the community in their local police force.
As stated in earlier docu-mental posts, law enforcement has had to take on far more societal ills than they are equipped to handle, and guess what? They burn out. They snap. They underperform. They stop being manly men, even if they’re women.
My guests address this problem and explain why defunding the police will make this worse, not better.
But I don’t let it stay there. Providing better training, less tasks, and more opportunities to be emotionally vulnerable might make better cops, but if it doesn’t change the fact that young black men are two and a half more times likely to be shot than a white man the same age,
then it is a white vanity project.
I also pointed out the FBI’s findings that there has been an infiltration of white supremacists in law enforcement over the years, something my guests claim they were not aware of, but did not downplay.
Credit goes to all three of my guests for their candor about the different ways blacks and whites view the police, and I give them credit for hanging in there when I suggested the Jungian concept of there needing to be more feminine character, not women, in the force. I think all my readers, many of whom are involved in policymaking and politics, as well as all of us thinking deeply and carefully about this moment in our nation’s history will be intrigued by this dialogue.
Thank you for continuing to support docu-mental, whether materially, or by being a faithful reader and sharing it with others whom you think will be stimulated to think differently by my thinking out loud.
Below is the annotated list of places in the audio where you can hear highlights of the conversation, and also a list of links to the resources and data citations made in the discussion.
3:00 John Marx and John Morrissey on the mental health challenges of policework
12:00 Mental health burn out on the job 14:30 Statistics on lethality of police encounters with blacks
18:20 The need to balance hardness with softness in law enforcement
27:30 The causes of mental health crises on the rise
29:30 How this reinforces built-in bias, and impacts crime, police response to minorities, and black communities' fears of law enforcement
34:00 Is law enforcement a cover for white supremacy?
41:00 There is less enforcement now that police are less proactive and more reactive now
42: 30 Is the system not changeable from within?
45:00 The harmful impact of the media on law enforcement-community relations 46:00 What Trump and Biden could do but aren't -- Chief Morrissey
52:00 Would more resources for law enforcement mean less deaths for black men?
55:00 Communities no longer in touch with reality in expectations for law enforcement
57:20 Community policing is ideal and here's what it requires
JAMA: Prevalence of Mental Illness and Mental Health Care Use Among Police Officers
LEVEL: Abolition for the People from Colin Kaepernick
Washington Post: Trump, Biden and masculinity in the age of coronavirus
Pew Research Center: From police to parole, black and white Americans differ widely in their views of criminal justice system
ACLU: The war on marijuana in black and white
Just Security: White Supremacist Infiltration of US Police Forces: Fact-Checking National Security Advisor O’Brien
National Academies of Science: Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex
Journalist’s Resource: Black men 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police
21st Century Cures Act and addressing mental illness in law enforcement
Neighborhood Defender Service: A community-based, wholistic approach to public defense and law enforcement
NYT: Opera Grapples with Race
docu-mental: Batman is not coming