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Time to cut back on cops?

There are few better examples of the complexities involved with policing than the differences of opinion we’re seeing on the need for police forces going forward, and the amount of money that should be invested in them.

Indeed across much of Canada and the United States right now, the cry to defund policing is gaining momentum following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in the States and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Canada this past month.

Defunding police would see money used for policing, instead, go towards funding services that focus on mental health and social supports.

Under this method instead of calling for police officers who are poorly equipped to deal with matters born of mental health and poverty issues, for example, people would have special emergency response numbers that would see someone arrive on scene who is trained in deescalation.

The movement to defund policing isn’t aimed so much at eliminating police forces across the country, but having far fewer officers on each force and the money cut from policing budgets redirected to other sources.

It is an approach very much subscribed to by the author of The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale, who points to areas of the world where initiatives such as legalization, restorative justice, and harm reduction have led to a decrease in crime and acts of injustice.

And they saved a barrel of money from police budgets to boot.

On the other hand, following the police bungling of the arrest and jailing of a Kinngait man this past week, Nunavut Legal Aid’s chief executive officer Benson Cowan penned a piece for the Globe and Mail that actually left a little room for opinion after he went through the reasons why he has no problem with cops (some are his friends, you know) and listing his qualifications for writing such a piece.

While he raises a few good points in the piece, Cowan calls for more money to be spent on policing and better training for the RCMP officers serving here.

Minneapolis – where the world watched in horror as one officer caused the death of George Floyd and three others watched and did nothing – implemented a number of training programs the city hoped would reduce the number of abuses that were taking place and triggering protests.

The training included deescalating confrontations with members of the public, how to be more self-aware of their implicit racial bias, how to respond to calls dealing with a mental health crisis, and how to be more careful and mindful in dangerous circumstances.

And these came following a flurry of other initiatives made previously in Minneapolis, yet none bore fruit.

In Nunavut, it may certainly be time for RCMP officers to be allowed to spend more time in the communities they are policing should they desire to do so.

And, it also wouldn’t hurt to make it mandatory for every member of the RCMP assigned to a Nunavut community, no matter how big or small, to be involved in the community as a volunteer, whether that be as a sports coach, official or trainer, as a mentor in the local school, or helping out with activities like hamlet days or the annual trade show in Rankin Inlet.

Truly becoming part of a community requires more than just the performance of one’s job duties, and an officer is going to be less prone to the use of force the more part of the community he/or she feels.

Food for thought during these most trying times.