Source: Calgary Journal
Calls to defund the police may startle you, and understandably so. Our society is built on traditions and norms, which inform our experiences. One tradition is the notion that “police protect cities”. However, for many residents of our cities, that has not been the case. In fact, the police have been the cause of violence and strife and fear in our communities. This perspective is new to some people. And it is understandable that when someone demands a shift away from this perspective —from what people have been taught— some push back.
Today’s Controversy is Tomorrow’s Norm
But what is controversial today can become the norm tomorrow. For example, four years ago in 2016, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem at the start of NFL games as a protest against police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick was subsequently forced out of the NFL. This month the NFL announced that it would display social justice statements in the end zone of every stadium this season.
But you must know by now that the norms of our society have been built off of a dangerous foundation. We cannot fear change driven by a pain so often ignored in our society. We must come to terms with where we have failed each other, as neighbours and citizens, acknowledge where unfairness and injustice exist, and set ourselves to a higher standard.
“We commit to leading a transformational cultural change” - Calgary Police Service
In September 2020, even the Calgary Police Service admitted that systemic racism exists within its ranks. The lived experience of some members of our community does not include the experience of equity and equality that every Calgarian deserves. To avoid addressing these issues means prolonging the pain and suffering of our fellow Calgarians.
Defunding builds proactive and resilient communities
Defunding is about supporting community needs. It is about attacking the root causes of issues that affect many in our society. Rather than funding a reactive police force, Defund2Fund seeks to build a proactive and resilient community through:
- Strategic funding of alternative community measures, we will reduce interactions between Police and vulnerable communities
- Funding early education and childcare, we offer families a more stable way out of experiencing poverty
- Funding low income housing, we reduce the financial burden on the shoulders of those most in need
- Funding culturally responsive mental health services, we can better serve the needs of our community
- And much more.
The end result of this exercise will be a reduced need for the police. They cannot be the one-size-fits-all frontline worker anymore. None other than Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld himself believes “the best tool for the job, or the best first response for some of the calls that we go to, perhaps isn't the police.”
We are wasting valuable time fighting over language. The conversations must shift away from the appropriateness of “What is Defund the Police?” because if you’ve been listening, you already know it is just and necessary to do so. No matter what words we use, this is an easy decision and we must put pressure on City Council to deliver it.
Dare to think beyond the world as it is. The system may be good for some now, but it can be better for all tomorrow.
Defund to Invest. Defund to Rebuild. Defund to Transform.
About the author
Courtney Walcott is a high school teacher in Calgary and a member of the Defund2Fund Coalition.
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