Publisher’s Note
OpinionPublisher's Note

Publisher’s Note

Publisher Michael Morris shares his thoughts on defunding police and possible reforms to prevent civilians from being harmed in confrontations.

The majority of Americans probably don’t think police departments around the country should be defunded or more specifically, disbanded. Unfortunately, recent events have resulted in intense scrutinty of this question.

I am defending the overwhelming majority of police officers who do their jobs well and with respect and integrity. I am not defending the small number of officers who abuse their power and stature, commit crimes or even make mistakes. I am defending the concept that the police protect us from a host of crimes that are perpetrated against law-abiding citizens. With heightened awareness that bias may be involved, we do, however, have to take into consideration that an error, not an abuse, but a blunder, is also possible, because we are all human.

Disbanding (the result of defunding) the police around the country would significantly affect our daily lives and put our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness; as well as religious freedoms at risk. Dismissing traffic enforcement, here are some numbers to keep in mind. In the U.S. over 16,000 homicides were reported in 2018, the latest figures available from the FBI, down 6 percent from 2017 as a result of the police. On a yearly basis, over 1 million violent crimes are reported (rape, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and other incidents). Police also respond daily to domestic violence, human trafficking, hate crimes, kidnapping, vandalism and an array of theft. Disbanding, creating a new norm, handicapping the police from doing their job, will have an absolutely devasting affect on our personal security at home, at work, at play, shopping or in just about doing anything we do every day.

Nonetheless, in light of recent crimes perpetrated by police officers, it is time to reevaluate what can be done to make innocent civilians less likely to be harmed when confronting a police officer.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind. This will cost more money, not less; and, it is not just a police issue. We as law abiding citizens do not have the right to get into an officer’s face, refuse to comply or fight back and expect zero ramifications. We cannot in good conscience expect our police to protect us, at all costs, without the awareness that they will protect themselves.

We are asking the police to protect us and that comes with certain expectations, rights and responsibilities. While I am no expert, I think there is a host of duties that police departments can uphold, considering recent activity, that makes common sense, and will keep us all safer. Nothing, however, will prevent all mistakes and accidents. Nothing will ensure every officer is committed to high ideals and has perfect integrity. Bad people will infiltrate our police, our armed forces, our healthcare providers, our clergy and every profession we can consider.

• More training is low-hanging fruit. More rigor can come in the form of longer basic training, diversity training, psychological training, continuing educational/training requirements, and enhanced specific training on when and how to consider the use of lethal force.

• Better use of psychological evaluation for officers. This could be instituted during the hiring process or during initial/basic training. Equally as important, this can be considered an ongoing approach like continuing education or after stressful time periods (a serious incident).

• Instituting review boards is already occurring in several jurisdictions around the country. This offers a uniquely American approach whereby civilians have the ultimate decision-making authority within an armed services department.

• I believe our police need and deserve more opportunities to de-stress from their jobs. This can come in the form of more vacation time, a change in the hourly/weekly scheduling (to allow for three days off at a time), sabbaticals or more creative constructs.

• Finally, a better database that tracks police officers’ behavior. Superiors need to know who in their forces are not living up to the high standards that must be met.

In addition, if an officer is not making the right decisions in one force, they should not be able to move to a different agency without that agency knowing their history.

There are 628 law enforcement agencies in Georgia alone (police, sheriff, marshal, parks, ports, universities and correctional facilities). That is a lot of people working to protect us.

I appreciate, thank and have full faith in my local law enforcement during this time of rapidly increasing crime, violence and homicides.

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