We expect police to do too much and without enough training. In Georgia, to be an officer requires a high school diploma and 11 weeks of training. In Germany, police training is 2.5 to 4 years. We can screen better in applications. We can train and teach better, including ethics, psychology and sociology. In Germany, visiting a concentration camp is mandatory for a police officer, and their federal police union organizes two annual trips to the Holocaust memorial in Israel.

This past Sunday I was invited to a panel discussion of the Odia Society of the Americas, to bridge the gap between the youths who support Black Lives Matter, and their parents who might struggle to understand it (I guess being 35 puts me in that age where I am 12-18 yrs older than the kids and a similar age younger to their parents 🤷🏻‍♂️😂). Some of the questions were similar questions we read in news – violence in black communities, the model minority myths, etc.

Centuries of subjugation, mass incarceration from a young age leading to poverty, lack of jobs, they all contribute to crime. Marijuana usage is same across skin color. But when a black youth is arrested, that record will stay in every job application, mortgage application, rental application. When parents get sent to prisons at a disproportionate rates, who will guide the youths? That is the term “systemic” that suppresses a population over generations. It was slavery, then Jim Crow, then war on drugs, and now voter ID laws. We have private prisons and states that take away a convict’s the right to vote for life. That is systemic racism. How will we fight mass incarceration that destroys a life when we authorize for-profit prisons?

Defund the police is a reductive hashtag. But policing reform is urgent and necessary, for the safety of the public and to help the police officers who are asked to do things beyond rational scope or training. Police have the power to take lives. Their training should be as much, if not more, than a physician’s training. And yes, they should be compensated as much (notwithstanding my earlier posts). They should be specialists for certain purposes, but their responsibilities and numbers should be reduced and redistributed to social workers and to address other needs. Not anyone should be a police officer.

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