I went to one of those Werner Erherd Seminars, in the late 90s, called The Forum. It was a pretty standard Tony Robbins type seminar helping people get in touch with their superpower and their individual potential that remains unused for most of us, for the entire duration of our lives. But one thing from that seminar that has stayed with me since then was a section about “Distinctions”. I’ve used it a lot in my life ever since.
An example of what I mean might be “Defunding the Police”. You can favor defunding the police without hating the police or favoring a return to the old west “Dodge City” model of rampant criminal behavior. I favor defunding the police, but not because I wish to punish police officers, even bad ones, by taking their money away. Punishing ANYONE is done at a higher pay grade. I can, however, make a distinction to favor defunding the police because there clearly needs to be a change in how the whole concept of law enforcement is currently perceived and executed and law enforcement appears unwilling, or unable to make the necessary changes themselves.
Making distinctions is like sharpening the point of a pencil so that it doesn’t write too wide a swath to accurately communicate the intent of the writer.
To understand law enforcement, I’d need to get a handle on what it is and what it was originally intended to accomplish. To do THAT, I’d need to circle back to how it all got started. What was the need and how was that need met? Research will point to two origins. One was to maintain peace among a growing and more diverse population of white people, some of whom may not have had the most proper intentions about how to go about the business of living. Others may have been pushed out to the edge of their survival and were left with few other options.
The second was to find, capture and return run-a-way slaves. Back then, white men would form Posses or Militias, to get paid for returning wealthy white landowners’ property. Our very first President appointed 13 Federal Marshalls whose job it was to spearhead the concept of preserving peace through violence. George Washington was a military General, after all. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I get that. I’m a singer/songwriter, everything looks like a song to me.
How we got from there to here is best summed up in a scene from “A Few Good Men” Where Colonel Jessop describes to the Court Marshall, what he does.
“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather that you just said “thank you” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand the post. Either way, I don’t give a DAMN what you think you’re entitled to!”
There are two things, historically, that come into play here. There IS a Blue Wall between the community and the police responsible for keeping the peace. Col. Jessop goes on:
“Deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall,,, you NEED me on that wall”
And he’s right! Police protect us from unimaginable horrors. It takes a certain type of person to want to do that for us. I’m not going to do it. I don’t have what it takes and I know it, but I rely, every day, on people who do. The second thing that Blue Wall does is protect the police from US. That might be why, when under siege like now, they circle the wagons and shut TF up about what they feel they must do to protect us.
Therein lies the fulcrum of why I favor defunding the police. Here, we have an organized armed militia that was borne out of the protection and preservation of White Supremacy, being assigned the monumental task of being all things to all people.
Never was that more on display than during the “Black Lives Matter” protests in Downtown Portland 2 years ago. While actual boots were literally on the ground down there it was crystal clear who was being protected and from whom. It was a ‘Black Lives Matter” protest. The people were on one side of the Blue Wall and the Police and the Government were on the other.
Law enforcement’s response was to counter with “Blue Lives Matter”. The “Blue Lives Matter” symbol was an American Flag with the colors removed so that what remained was a Black & White American flag, with a BLUE LINE running through the middle of it. The symbolism was starkly shocking to me. It said everything about why I favor defunding the Police. The Portland Police Bureau, whether intentional or otherwise, IS Racist.
We here in Portland have partially defunded the police and the result has been that we are in league with larger US cities in the number of homicides and other felony crimes. The funding that was denied the Police has been reallocated to other forms of community support. Things like Mental Health crises, Medical emergencies and drug overdoses. More funding is also going to Neighborhood Watch and community development organizations whose intent is to stem the tide of the conditions that give birth to indelicate behavior before it gets to the point of being criminal. Crime Prevention.
It’s going to take a while for the remodeling to settle. It will settle when the community knows who to call for what type of emergency and to what resources we can refer people, who we can see are struggling. Where the police will also know what concerns to leave to other resources so they can concentrate their resources on what they are truly needed for. I favor defunding the police because, in Portland, we are finally beginning to do something about what we are so conflicted about as regards how Law Enforcement works here.
Unfortunately, the origins of law enforcement, Protecting and Preserving White Supremacy, is still, very much, a reality today. That is a matter for what must be our next step to coincide with our new model of community support. Police Training! There is no possible way that people of color in Portland commit more crimes than white people do. Yet they are arrested and convicted at a rate that far outpaces the rate for the same crimes among white people. I’m not suggesting that law enforcement arrest more white people, or for that matter, less people of color. I’m suggesting they arrest more people who are committing crimes. If you concentrate your surveillance on people of color, that’s what you’re going to find. To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, remember?
The population of people in Portland who are black is somewhere south of 10%. A tour of any jail in the area will clearly demonstrate that there’s a huge problem and it IS about race. Penalties for the use of Cocaine as opposed to Crack (The same drug, I might add, that is simply administered differently) are another stark reminder of how law enforcement plays into race.
The Blue Wall, must come down!
There’s a barrier to that happening that is intricately imbedded in the Police Union Contract. I’m a Union Guy. Unions are good. The other side of that coin is The PPB Contract with the City of Portland. I believe that PPB SHOULD have a contract with the city and it SHOULD be ironclad! I haven’t read it, but I do see the impact it has on accountability. I don’t believe the contract should include any section or clause that protects any member of the force from accountability to the laws they are sworn to protect and defend. And, those laws need to be protected and defended for EVERYONE,,, Full Stop!
The Blue Wall includes loyalty to the force and to one another. The good guys know who the bad guys are, but there’s little they can do about that. This is life and death stuff folks. Police officers need to do their jobs with the full confidence of knowing that their fellow officers have their 6,,, all of them, good or bad.
Turning in a fellow officer for misbehavior is deeply entrenched behind the Blue Wall. Any officer that does it is bringing a world of hurt upon themselves. Not the bad guys. They must turn a blind eye to such behavior or lose everything. They will never work in law enforcement again, will never be able to feel comfortable around another officer and may even suffer physical damage to their person, or worse. I don’t have a solution for that. But, somehow, we need to find a way to get to a place within law enforcement where stuff like honor and integrity are cool and the people who have them are rewarded and even emulated for it. THAT is a steep mountain to climb if I ever saw one.
In closing I want to say that maybe you are not conflicted about law enforcement. Maybe you have a strong opinion on one side of the Blue Wall or the other and are fine with that. But, I am certainly conflicted! I understand why we need something like the concept of law enforcement. I love them individually (Well most of them, anyway). I’m an old white male. The whole thing is set up for my protection and defense. So, yeah, I like them. But I hate them in the form of the GANG that they have evolved into and it doesn’t really matter how or why that evolution came about. It’s just wrong. So, I favor Defunding the police and I thank you for hanging in there with me so I could tell you why. It’s about making distinctions.