Painful Truth: Policing needs new vision

If we can make policing better, we should do so

Two weeks ago, calls to defund or even abolish the police were purely in the realm of academia and radical politics.

But in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis officer, and the widely-shared images of police attacking demonstrators, bystanders, and the press at protests across the U.S., these are measures that have moved into the forefront of public debate.

This is not a matter of whether individual officers are good or bad. The question is about systems, and what outcomes they have.

What powers do we give police? What equipment and weapons do we give them? Is every task given to a police officer really best served by an armed responder?

So here’s three specific questions I have about how we might change policing here in Canada.

• Why do police get emergency calls about the homeless and mentally ill?

I should note that the head of the Langley RCMP detachment, Supt. Murray Power, has repeatedly and correctly emphasized that being homeless is not a crime. But whenever a call to 911 comes in about a homeless person on private property, about an addict unconscious on a stoop, or about a mentally ill person in public, it’s the police who are asked to intervene.

Why? Why can’t 911 also dispatch social worker teams?

Police are poorly resourced for this task – you can’t arrest poverty or drug addiction or mental illness. Meanwhile, outreach workers (armed only with trust) and mental health and rehab are tragically underfunded.

• The ongoing money laundering scandals in B.C. has me wondering – why exactly do we select all our major financial crimes investigators from a pool of people who can complete an RCMP training obstacle course? I don’t want to denigrate the officers who do this work, but by leaving out, say, wheelchair users, or those with asthma, or those who just don’t want to carry a gun, we’re ignoring a large potential pool of investigators.

If they need to make a high-risk arrest, sure, bring in some armed responders, but securities fraudsters seldom have machine guns.

• Does every cop need a gun?

They seem to do fine without them on patrol in Britain, New Zealand, and Iceland. Even here in Canada, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary kept their guns in the trunks of their cars until 1998!

Officers who do valuable work in investigation, crime prevention, and youth intervention often go years without drawing their guns outside the range. If so, why not disarm the officers whose work does not require guns?

The first questions that will come up about redefining policing and public safety will be those driven by fear – who will protect us, who will investigate crime?

The questions that should be at the forefront should be, can we do better? Can we change and improve how we respond to what is now considered the realm of policing, to make our society better, safer, and more just?

Of course we can. Knowing that, we have a duty to create positive change.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

LETTER: Langley couple hanging out in Bali during COVID

There are worse places to be during what one local reader calls his pineapple pandemic

LETTER: Is B.C. really doing as well as it thinks when it comes to COVID?

Stop comparing this province to the U.S., but rather look to our neighbours across the Pacific Ocean

Seniors homes in Langley preparing to re-open for visitors

On Tuesday, B.C.’s top doctor announced new visitation guidelines for long-term care facilities

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Langley Advance Times to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Tsilhqot’in Nation demands meeting with feds on declining Fraser River chinook stocks

The Nation wants to partner with DFO to rebuild and recover the stocks

PHOTOS: Dual rallies take over Legislature lawn on Canada Day

Resist Canada 153 highlighted colonization and genocide, Unify the People called COVID a hoax

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

Northbound lane of Coquihalla closed after vehicle incident near Hope

A northbound lane is closed just north of the Great Bear Snowshed, according to DriveBC

‘A little bit scary for everybody’: Air passengers wary as new rules take effect

Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights since April 20

Most Read