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Who are you going to call?

To the editor:

At first glance, it might appear that we live in an isolated bubble up here. The natural beauty, the glory of the lake, the endless forests suggest that all is well where we live.

Spend a few weeks monitoring local police, fire, and EMS radio traffic in our area and you’ll discover that all is, definitely, not at all well. Because of thirty-five years of systematically defunding social and mental health services, police are asked to routinely respond to calls involving domestic disputes, harassment, substance abuse, impaired driving, and a whole host of other behaviors associated with various types of mental illness, substance, and poverty.

Requirements to become a police officer vary from agency to agency. Some require two or four-year certificates or degrees, while others require only a four month training program. Salaries and benefits vary widely, from the mid-30’s for entry-level officers to significantly more for seasoned officers.

I’m not at all, or in any way, defending or excusing the reprehensible and unforgivable behavior of that cop who kneeled on the neck of the hand-cuffed George Floyd for nearly nine minutes nor those officers who stood by and watched as the life drained out of Floyd’s body.

I am also keenly sensitive, however, to the expressions of frustration by some of our local police officers who feel that the quality of their service is being automatically associated with these inexcusable instances of excess that are increasingly coming to light across the country.

We ask our local police to serve as family counselors, frontline psychologists, search-and-rescue specialists, substance abuse counselors, and in a host of other specialized roles. While you were sleeping last night, some local police officer got out of her patrol car on a lonely highway and approached a vehicle that had been observed driving erratically. Others responded to a cry for help from an abused spouse under assault. Every shift comes fraught with potential risk.

Like every other profession, there are, undoubtably, those individuals who are better suited to serve and protect the public than others. Instead of defunding our local police agencies, we should be seeking the means and methods to improve police training, compensation, and management. We should reward good policing by scaffolding the work of our police by restoring funding for the social services that some of our citizens desperately need.

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