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How to Make Our Communities Safer by Reducing Our Reliance on Policing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2020

From Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing, a list of 10 Ways To Reduce Our Reliance On Policing And Make Our Communities Safer For Everyone, which includes proposals like having mental health and social workers to respond to crises, have crime labs operate independently of law enforcement, and replacing cops in schools with counselors & safety coaches.

For children growing up during the era of mass incarceration, seeing armed officers in their schools is commonplace. Federal grants have supported more and more cops in schools. Federal programs like the Community Oriented Policing Services (“COPS”) have provided millions of dollars to hire and train local police, including police in schools.

Police officers do not have specialized training in adolescent or childhood development. They are not mental health experts, social workers with licensed degrees, psychologists, or school counselors. They are not educators. To be clear, school resource officers are career law enforcement officers, with arresting authority, and a license to carry a weapon. Police officers patrol school hallways just like they do city streets. More than one and a half million students attend schools with an SRO, but no counselor.

There are better, safer, and cheaper alternatives. In 2016, Intermediate School District 287, a school west of the Twin Cities with a high concentration of students with special needs and mental health needs that can result in behavior issues, replaced their school resource officers with Student Safety Coaches. The Student Safety Coaches specialize in mental health, restorative justice, de-escalation, and building positive relationships with their students. Arrests decreased by 80 percent in the pilot school after implementation of the program.

The common, and commonsense, thread through all of these proposals is to replace armed, untrained responders who make difficult situations less safe with people & organizations that are specifically trained to help people in distress or crisis.

See also Police Abolition: The Growing Movement to Defund the Police.