I am writing as a member of Holy Trinity. Though I am a member of the vestry executive, we have not yet met this month to discuss a formal response–these words are my own.
We are a small, urban community that cares deeply about justice and about the lives of those who are marginalized by the broader society. In recent years we have been most visible in the struggle for housing and an end to homelessness. But our members been active in LGBTQ+, indigenous rights, disability rights and many other places as well.
We are not always very good at communicating. We are often, collectively or as individuals, up to our necks in actions and and activity related to justice issues of many kinds to greater or lesser degrees. But that sometimes means we don’t speak collectively and clearly into spaces we should very much be speaking into. We are often right there, but organizationally we sometimes forget that we have a responsibility not just to show up, but to speak publicly in formal ways. We are here and we are listening and acting.
Nothing I can say will make the dreadfulness of these losses better. We are very upset by the recent deaths of Chantel Moore and Regis Korchinski-Paquet and so many before them here and around the world. We are painfully aware that there is systemic anti-black and anti-indigenous racism in this country and these incidents bring it to light. It is high time that we seriously tackle these problems.
Though there are many places in our society where this racism is entrenched, the ongoing disproportionate deaths bring policing particularly into focus. It seems like it is time to look at entirely new models to support public safety.
While there are definitely many good police officers, there are some terrible ones and many somewhere in between. Attempts have been made at police reform over many decades with much police opposition and with little success. Even when a chief and mayor agree there is a problem and want to bring in reform, the police unions have proven to be terrible impediments.
I believe it is time to stop struggling for minor changes and to completely rethink the ways in which we enforce laws and especially the ways in which we respond to mental health crises.
We can’t suddenly abolish the police and do nothing. The failure of the community mental health supports to be ramped up in the wake of closing institutions shows what happens when you don’t have a plan. However, we need a complete replacement for our existing policing system. and we need to start work on it right away. It appears that Minneapolis put a foot on that path yesterday. The campaigns to defund police departments are not simply knee-jerk anti-police campaigns, they are well thought out ideas for building a safer community for everyone.
We will need those good, thoughtful cops to take jobs in whatever the replacement is. But we will also need well-trained mental health crisis workers and mediators and probably many other things. If what we want is a safer, more inclusive society, we need to stop thinking that someone with a gun is the answer to every problem. Unfortunately, force may still be necessary in some moments, but the leading response needs to be one with more nuance and compassion than seems to be likely in existing policing.
May we work together to make a city, country and planet safe for all, but especially for those who are suffering most.