Painful Truth: Policing needs new vision

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.


Just Posted

The Langley Centennial Museum is hoping the public can help identify people in this photo from the Sperling Church Sunday School. (Langley Township photo)
Did you attend Sperling Church Sunday School in Langley?

Local residents can help ID people in historic local photos and preserve Langley history

Higher sales of cannabis helped Canadian farmers come out in the green. (Black Press Media File)
Cannabis processing could start shop in North Langley

Company is the latest to work on industrial operations locally

Langley Quilters Guild helped honour two long-time members of the Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, including Pat Walker (left), with “beautiful quilts” to express appreciation for their years of service to the non-profit. Her quilt was presented by Nuala Adderley (right), the guild vice-president. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Giving everlasting thanks to devoted Langley volunteers

Quilts given to two women who donate more than 30+ years each to Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary

Nixon Mahovlic, 8, was inspired by kindness week at Fort Langley Elementary so he set out to collect bottles to raise money for a local family in need. (Steve Mahovlic/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) (File Photo)
Police watchdog investigating after man found dead in Surrey following a wellness check

IIO says officers ‘reportedly spoke to a man at the home before departing’

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Surrey RCMP in the 4900-block of 148th Street, a short road just off of King George Boulevard, on May 15, 2021 after a male was allegedly assaulted with a “pipe-like” weapon that morning. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey RCMP investigating after person reportedly injured with ‘pipe-like’ weapon

Police investigating incident in the 4900-block of 148th Street

Most Read