Gerald G. Doane: So, you want to defund the cops
Should we defund the police, or should we give them more? Do we need cops at all? Do we need more social welfare workers to do social conflict work police are now responsible for?
These are seemingly important questions facing our society today. Amazingly, there were similar questions when I was a rookie cop in the early 1960s. I had opinions, but I had no idea what the answers were. As I grew into my career and expanded my education, I began to better understand the differences, the interfaces and the interactions between police and social welfare work.
To be certain, there were then and there are today, overlapping activities between the two. But there are important differences, activities that are performed by one which cannot be performed by the other. Put into context, one cannot perform social welfare work in an environment of conflict, chaos and unrest that often exists in our society without first providing safety and security.
When I was being trained in crisis negotiating by Harvey Schlossberg, PhD, a practicing clinical psychologist and a New York Police Department detective, he often told us that the basic need to secure the incident scene at a crisis was paramount. He would use many colorful analogies, all of which imported that security was a higher priority than negotiating with the person in crisis.
At first, I did not fully grasp the concept. I just assumed a crisis scene would be secured simply by our presence. Not until a “movement” question came into our discussions did my understanding of the concept begin to fully emerge. Someone in our class asked, “Should we allow a hostage-taker to move away from the scene, say to the airport?”
That raised lots of discussion, pro and con. Someone brought up the “Dog Day Afternoon” affair where two hostage-takers were transported — with hostages — by federal agents from a bank they were robbing, ostensibly so suspects could escape in an airplane. Well, we all knew what happened, one of the federal agents shot and killed one of the hostage-takers while in route to the airport, ending the crisis.
Some in our class applauded a “movement” strategy, others did not. To me, it demonstrated the difficulties in maintaining control, or containment, when allowing movement. It showed me that deadly force would be the most likely outcome. To me, and to others in my class as well, “movement” was a strategy on how best to kill the hostage-taker.
It took me a while to really get it, but I finally did. I was allowed to perform, along with many of my talented colleagues, Schlossberg’s magic on the streets of multiple jurisdictions. Many lives were saved using his technique. I am proud to say that we never lost a life in any of the incidents we were called on to resolve.
That being said, I found that Schlossberg’s techniques were applicable in many different types of situations police are called upon to manage. Police must always be fully prepared to be organized and to control any situation they encounter, including protests and riots. In other words, we must secure the scene before the important work of crisis negotiating occurs.
Domestic violence is a prime example. The laws have been enhanced to give police officers the necessary tools to prevent violence and to resolve conflict in domestic issues. Yet domestic violence remains the most dangerous call for service that police officers face. A social welfare worker would not have the tools to deal with domestic violence matters, only a peace officer has the tools.
To update my conclusions, I contacted Antoinette Collarini-Schlossberg, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and chairperson of the Division of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Homeland Security at St. John’s University, New York. I asked her opinion of taking away certain social conflict work from police officers and giving it to social welfare workers. “Bad policy,” she told me. “This has been tried before and studies have shown it did not work well at all.”
I appreciate the opinions and questions but defunding the police in lieu of social welfare workers is a fuzzy headed policy without serious thought.
Gerald G. Doane lives in Grass Valley.
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