by Anton Andrew, Dem candidate, PA House 160
Even though no police officers were indicted for the killing of Breonna Taylor, we can all agree she shouldn’t be dead! So let’s not waste this moment.
“Policing is hard, especially in a society that is so heavily armed. It becomes darn near impossible when our local police officers are expected to solve persistent non-violent societal problems like homelessness, mental health and drug addiction… the deeper, structural issues that lead to violence and crime.” — Kennett Square Borough Chief of Police William Holdsworth.
Chief Holdsworth’s frustration is shared by many local law enforcement officers with whom I have spoken.
Over the years, while consistently underfunding vital social services, we have at the same time mistakenly forced too many of the problems faced by our community on the shoulders of our police departments. It is too heavy a burden, and one that we cannot continue to expect police officers to carry alone.
As a public defender, I worked with a multidisciplinary team composed of medical professionals, educators, counselors, social workers and police officers to develop alternatives for incarceration for my juvenile clients. It is within that model that I see a path forward to supporting our local police AND improving social and racial justice.
We must fight to increase funding for these essential professionals because they are the ones who provide mental health support, interventions and treatment for addiction, and emergency services for families in crisis. They are better trained and better equipped to effectively deliver these services than police officers.
Their interventions are more likely to have a lasting effect on reducing crime, especially when paired with community-based policing focused on increasing positive interactions, partnerships and problem solving between law enforcement and the communities they are charged with protecting.
The discussion we should be having in Harrisburg today is about re-funding vital social services in order to remove the unfair burden we have placed on our local police officers. This is how we can best support our local police and free them to succeed at the job for which they were trained: the essential job of ensuring public safety.