by Kevin Bliss
The $14 billion invested in police equipment and community policing in the U.S. has not helped instill trust and camaraderie between the police and black communities, says writer and activist Philip McHarris, in an article published in The Appeal.
In fact, it only offers more opportunity for police violence and legitimizes their propensity for punishment and control.
McHarris said proponents for a more active police force in black communities stated that it built trust and partnership.
He mentioned Bill Clinton signing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994 crime bill) when he was President establishing the Community Oriented Policing Services, which increased police presence and resources in minority communities. Coincidently, it was not the first time someone attempted to increase police presence as a means of promoting community relations. It usually followed some police action of negative impact.
The Kerner Commission of 1968 reported that almost half the urban uprisings in the preceding three years were a response to some act of excessive force by police. It advocated for more jobs, improved housing, and better education instead of a greater police presence, a recommendation President Johnson ignored.
To many, more police presence is simply a greater level of surveillance, arrest, and violence. McHarris pointed out that the NYPD’s website stated: “Neighborhood Policing greatly increases connectivity and engagement with the community without diminishing, and, in fact, improving the NYPD’s crime-fighting capabilities. The NYPD has long encouraged officers to strengthen bonds with the communities they patrol.” Instead, they come across more as an occupying force looking for criminal activity in every resident.
McHarris suggested that the money invested in police presence could instead be used in programs that foster safety and wellness, drug treatment, schools, hospitals, rapid response teams, and violence interruption initiatives.
“For many people that I know, their relationship with the police is irreparable,” McHarris said. “No amount of conversations or events will fix the relationship, or make them comfortable calling 911 in an emergency. Divesting from policing and investing in communities will ultimately make people far safer than policing ever will.”
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