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Defund or defend police?

To the editor:

As a pastor, I have worked with local law enforcement officers and departments for over 30 years. I have worked with the officers in this community in challenging and critical situations, and from my perspective, we are fortunate to have highly trained officers that do a very difficult job. We ask them to respond to an extremely wide range of situations, and they in fact receive a great amount of training that most people are not aware of. We ask a great deal of them. While one could argue that we ask too much, and that some things they do on a normal basis should be done by other professionals, they are trained to respond to a wide variety of calls in conjunction with the human and social services available in this community. If we need more of those services, we need to fund them.

The question isn’t about “defunding or defending” the police. It’s a question of deciding what is appropriate for the health and safety of our community and its members first, and second, how to pay for that health and safety.

It’s legitimate to ask what services we want and need from our law enforcement officers, to discuss what might be more appropriately done by someone else. That can be done through rational conversation and normal budgetary processes. We could all be better educated and more involved about how to support and how to change a system.

Supporting our local law enforcement is vital. And I applaud those who are willing to march on their behalf. I would also argue that marching for a cause like Black Lives Matter is also vital, and the two don’t have to be seen as at odds with each other. One is not more patriotic than the other. But posing the question as “defund or defend” needlessly polarizes and divides.

The issues we face today are real from many perspectives. We are fortunate to live in a community where a majority of people actually care for others, no matter what color their skin is. We might actually agree that Black lives matter, Red lives matter, Brown lives matter, White lives matter, and Blue lives matter. But if a house is on fire, you pay attention to that house. It’s not that “other houses” don’t matter. Certain “houses” in our society and world are on fire. They all matter, but as we face these issues together, we must find ways to talk with each other rationally. This also applies to having conversations about what needs to be funded or “defunded” as opposed to what could or should be handled in a different way. And we need to talk with each other about how to equally “defend” every member of this community and nation.

Now that would be patriotic.

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