Ball of Confusion

By Bob Hazard   |   June 18, 2020

I’m confused. Prior to May 25, law enforcement officers, along with firefighters, doctors and nurses, were celebrated as America’s heroes for showing up as first responders when other workers were told to shelter-in-place. What has happened to unleash a flood of angry protestors with signs that read “Eat the rich. Hang Bankers”; “F*** Capitalism”; and “Police are Pigs”?

Where are the voices of tens of millions of Americans who are horrified at what happened in Minneapolis, but who support law enforcement, fight for social justice every day, live in peace with their neighbors and love this country? Instead, we are bombarded with the message that our “thin blue line” is inherently brutal, and worse, irredeemably racist. And just generally needs to be scrapped.

In response, President Trump just signed an executive order “Safe Policing For Safe Communities” to establish new protocols (and abandoning others) to establish better policing policies in our nation. The order promotes better social services to aid mental health and homelessness, create a federal database to monitor law enforcement conduct, and create grant programs for community-supported law enforcement models. So the federal government is responding. But are the states and cities doing their part?

Support for Peaceful Protestors

New York City’s longest serving Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, points out that police are in the business of protecting the right of every American to peacefully protest. Kelly sensibly asks, “If reformers want to defund or dismantle police, or allow police stations to be burned down, who will show up when people or property is threatened?”

Public Safety and Personal Responsibility

According to Walter E. Williams, a Black Professor of Economics at George Mason University and a frequent editorial correspondent: “The first responsibility of elected officials who run our cities, is public safety. Some of the most dangerous big cities are St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore, Oakland, Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta, Birmingham, Newark, Buffalo, and Philadelphia.” The most common characteristic of these cities is that for decades, all of them have been run by progressive Democrats. In my mind one of the worst bigotries is the bigotry of low expectations.  I believe these Democrat electeds need to have higher expectations… and hold themselves to these higher expectations as well.

An increased flow of federal subsidies has not ended poverty. Failing inner city schools have not closed the gap in education. It can be argued that Black Americans, more than any other ethnic group, have been sentenced to a life of generational and cyclical poverty in the failed urban ghettos of America in return for the surety of their votes. But are those votes still that guaranteed? Even with the former Vice President’s “You ain’t black” gaffe?

What Has Happened in our Largest Cities?

Let’s not forget that all these major metropoles, with emphasis on Minneapolis (the flashpoint of our current unrest), are run by progressive dems who have thus far only delivered lip service and photo ops to the urban disenfranchised, our own town not excluded. Of the top 25 cities in this country by population, only four have Republican mayors. In the top 10, only San Diego (#8) has a Republican mayor. So who is failing the urban disenfranchised? Don’t the cities have a pretty big role in all of this?  

Minneapolis Self-Eradicates its Law Enforcement

18 days after the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to replace the police department with a community-led public safety system. “We acknowledge that the current system is not reformable – that we would like to end the current policing system as we know it,” council member Alondra Cano said.

Seattle’s No-Cop Utopia

In Seattle, police officers have fled, and protestors have taken over the streets in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Posted signs read, “You are Now Entering Free Capitol Hill.” Police are not allowed to enter a six-block downtown area of the city, which has declared its own independence. Demonstrators hung a banner on the burned-out East Precinct police station: “THIS SPACE IS NOW THE PROPERTY OF THE SEATTLE PEOPLE.”

Protestors are camped out in the self-declared “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” The street-party atmosphere provides free music, free snacks at the No-Cop Co-op and free gas masks are available from some guy’s sedan. A free documentary movie, 13th, the Ava DuVernay film about the criminal justice system’s impact on African Americans, is shown after dark. The street theme is “Summer of Love.”

According to Michael Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, city leadership has lost its political will to assert the rule of law. Burned-out, boarded-up minority-owned businesses have been vandalized, looted and destroyed, perhaps never to reopen. Rioters ransacked Nordstrom’s flagship store downtown, and 100 other businesses on live TV before the National Guard was called in.

Protestors claim that the Seattle Police Department and its attached court system are beyond reform. Their message is: “We do not request reform; we demand abolition. We demand that the Seattle Council and the Mayor defund and abolish the Seattle Police Department and the attached Criminal Justice Apparatus, including existing pensions for Seattle police.” Other demands include eliminating ICE, and the banning of police guns, batons, riot shields, and tear gas.

California Police Reform

Closer to home, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposes cutting the police budget by putting fewer officers on the street and redirecting funding to social programs that would benefit communities of color. The United Teachers Union in Los Angeles says it supports a campaign to eliminate school police funding and move its $8 billion budget that has been providing police protection at public schools to mental health support and academic counselors.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed announced that police officers will be replaced by social workers to respond to calls for help involving school discipline, neighborhood disputes, drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness as part of a new wave of police reforms. By 2021, military weapons and tear gas will be banned for police use.

Santa Barbara Police Reform

Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo demonstrated that she has learned to take a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance at a City Council meeting two days after she refused to take a knee during a “Black Lives Matter” march on the police station. Apparently, Murillo’s gesture was not enough for community members who spoke at the City Council meeting, insisting that kneeling inside the council chamber was a token, too-little, too-late gesture, solely for the cameras.

Community organizers have issued a set of demands they want from the City of Santa Barbara, including a City Council resolution condemning police brutality; declaring racism a public health emergency; removing statutes and symbols of white supremacy; and greater transparency and accountability from the Police Department, including the creation of a new civilian review board. Interestingly, there has been no mention of eliminating the power of police unions who protect the retention of “bad cops.”

Police Reform in Montecito

The County Sheriff’s substation in Carpinteria, headed by Lt. Ugo (Butch) Arnoldi, assisted by Deputy James Carovano as the Community Resource Deputy, provides law enforcement services for unincorporated Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria Valley, as well as the City of Carpinteria, by contract.

Deputies are asked to provide assistance for life threatening incidents, such as murder; forcible rape; robbery; and aggravated assault, often involving alcohol addiction or drug overdoses from cocaine, meth, mollies, or mushrooms.

A lesser category of offenses includes car thefts, stolen purses at trailheads, store and home robberies, mail and credit card fraud, gang fights, battered women and child abuse. Crime rates are inching upward as incarcerated felons are released from an overcrowded criminal justice system in Santa Barbara County and throughout the state.

Montecito residents call on our local Sheriff to restrain noisy late-night parties, investigate public intoxication, prevent illegal drug sales or use, resolve juvenile problems, prevent trespassing, find missing persons, and remove homeless encampments on private property. It was our local Sheriff’s office that responded to reports of naked people on the beaches, a dead 38-foot grey whale which washed ashore near Santa Claus Lane and protection of empty homes during numerous Montecito emergency evacuations.

I would be surprised if more than 1% of the residents of Montecito want our Sheriff’s Substation to be either defunded or disbanded.

ALL Need to Take Ownership of This Problem

I personally have witnessed us come a long way as a country in improving race relations in this generation. Which is not to say we don’t have periodical growing pains and not to say that more doesn’t need to be done to achieve the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.…”that one day my children will live in a nation where they will NOT be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

But I also think it is madness to predominantly blame the police, and not ourselves, for the indignity of systemic racism. Black or white, brown or yellow, we each need to take personal responsibility for racial injustice and support changes that will make a difference. To suggest that police reform is the cure-all for years of failed social policies and government subsidies that inhibit individual initiative, personal responsibility and hard work is both illogical and irrational. Changing the hearts of “we the people” will prove to be much more difficult than changing the behavior of a few bad police officers.

 

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