Just saw something that said, “We train them to be police warriors & send them out to be social workers.” The sentence hit me like a brick, right in my chest. To me, it’s like a revelation of how fucked up of a society we are.
In my mind, social workers are the people sent into the field to protect the disadvantaged. They’re sent in to deescalate and help mediate a situation. In America’s mind, that’s why citizens should also call the police.
We don’t call social workers or police out of malice or ill intent. We call because we are afraid for someone’s safety. In both cases, we call on both of these agencies because we have a fear of someone or something threatening a person’s life or well being.
If you know anyone who’s worked in a municipal police department, they know their regular jail bird. The one that comes in so often that they’re worried when they hadn’t seen him in a while.
The one neighborhood crackhead, maybe. He’s good when he’s on his meds he’s in parking lots begging for money. Or the one who talks to himself out loud— he’s doesn’t bother anybody so you shouldn’t pay him any mind.
These are the people police interact with most often. The sad part about it is those people don’t need police, they need help. They don’t need to be in a jail cell, they need to given the proper resources to “heal” mentally, so they can function as normal productive members of society.
But that’s not what we train police to do. We send them to target practice at the range, instead. We teach them to fight and administer 3 second bursts of Freeze + P. We give them tasers, batons, and long ass flashlights.
We don’t train them on how to interact with a person whose mind is in a total different reality. Do they know how to calm an amped up grown man with bipolar disorder, or how reason with a dope sick person scaring patrons?
Since we don’t train them, how do we expect them to know how to respond? What should they be, other than afraid of the “crazy” man in front of them? Do we even teach them conflict resolution?
That’s where we’ve gone wrong with policing. They can’t tell the difference. We’ve never taught them to tell the difference. They do what we train them to do. They fight— and we’re just now realizing they don’t always have to.