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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Police need to be trained as peacekeepers

A reader writes in to share his views on the role police have in our society
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BradfordToday welcomes letters to the editor. Send your letters to natasha@bradfordtoday.ca. 
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Police, body of officers representing the civil authority of government. Police typically are responsible for maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities. These functions are known as policing. (Webster's dictionary).

The definition may be simplified, but the basis states that police are persons of authority, armed and able to maintain public order and safety. 

We have seen may cases of violence set upon citizens and police alike in North America.

Justified violence? Is that the important issue here? The main issue is that our society is filled with FEAR.

Police fear for their lives, loss of authority while citizens fear those who are supposed to be protecting them.

Why the FEAR?  So many reasons...

  • Armed criminality
  • Social injustice and prejudice
  • Racism (personal and institutionalized)
  • Availability of weapons
  • Supposed media availability (everyone has a video)
  • Generational poverty and unemployment

Fear of all kinds transforming our society into groups...cultural, social, political, economic classes, race.

Even when we protest the injustices of the world, we come face to face with fear, whether it be institutional ignorance, police/social  oppression, societal exclusions. 

Have you ever been in a predominately poverty stricken community walking at night, see three youths coming towards you on side walk? Hoodies in the dark. What to do? Fear of what could be.

A couple driving a premier vehicle  in an exclusive neighborhood are stopped. If they were white they'd still be driving, but no. Police check. Why?  Fear of the possible.

Let's get rid of this fear. Let's change how police and policing are viewed. No longer should police be viewed as those to be feared.

Policing should be viewed as peacekeeping.

Peacekeepers do what? Stand between opposing forces to negotiate and stop violence. 

I experienced an event in New York City long ago. We were on a bus when two officers came aboard. A young man stood up and pointed his fire arm at them. What did they do? Have a shootout? No.

One officer stepped back down the stairs while the other spoke to the young man. We were all involved in this conversation. The officer knew how to de-escalate the situation.

The young man went down the stairs, sitting on a bench with an officer while the other stood behind him. Peace Keepers talk, discuss, influence situational experiences. As a clergyman, I to learnt the power of intelligent gabbing. Explain the pros and cons of existing or future events. Have a gun, what can happen to you or others if that gun is used?

TALK: Walk in Their Shoes - Respond

Peacekeepers find solutions to problems. They often hash out political-personal issues between individuals and groups. Policing has become a multi tasking career.

Part police, social worker and diplomat. Remember the police are agents of the justice system but they do not punish. The courts decide what is fair and just. The police learn and proclaim laws of the land. Therefore, if someone has been perceived to break a law, the police respond in an intelligent controlled manner.

Most times violence is not needed. If a law breaker does not fear the police, knowing they will be going to court where they'd be judged, violence can be avoided. Do the police know this? Is every citizen in our land viewed as innocent or possibly guilty? Do the police fear us (the citizenry) so much that weapons in hand have become habitual?

Policing needs to become community centered. Police and our citizens need to learn what it is like to live in one another's shoes. I lived in the Bronx. White, Black , Hispanic, Asian...we all lived below the poverty line, among those who stood outside of the American experience.

Low income, addiction, low prospects. Yet the communities in the Bronx were centres of helpful, charitable community also. Respect given and taken by all. The police lived in the community. They knew the fears, joys and expectations of their neighbours and responded with open hands and hearts. Stuff happened, yes, but there was more good than bad.

We need to know each other, seeing our neighbors with new eyes. The prejudices of the past and present can be understood and dealt with intelligently. A peacekeeper is possibly the most flexible of our armed forces. Thrown into every possible situation, they need to adapt and respond in a constructive manner. So, too, our police.

Pulling a weapon is a last resort. A good person standing in their uniform, ready to serve their neighbor should be all that's needed. Armed yes. There are situations that require the authority of a weapon, but the power of intelligent thoughts can be voiced, transforming a situation of potential violence into an act of peaceful good.

Our police need to be trained as peace keepers. The days of turning off body cams, taking a hooligan down town for a beating, hassling someone because they are in a car, neighborhood not symbolic of their demographic must end.

Eric Cartman, a character of South Park, barks these words: "Respect my authority".

That is what is happening throughout North America. Police FEAR loss of their authority.

Everyone's seemingly questioning that authority on social media, videos and the media. I guess what I am saying is authority is not as powerful as respect. Found in the same statement, both words actually compliment each other. Respect My Authority. Police are not in themselves authority, but represent authority. Who gives them this authority? We do. It is not Them and Us. It is US. WE are the authority they represent.

As God says "I Am", we the people should proclaim to all respect our athority. Who will represent us in the world?  The peacekeepers of society, our neighbours, the police.                                        

Steven Kaszab
Bradford

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