By Edith Morgan
We here are “action” people, and we are always ready with quick solutions to complex problems. We are at it again.
Before we make major changes to some of our oldest institutions, let’s use the time we have in coronavirus quarantine to reason, get facts, and THINK – something which seems to be much out of style nowadays.
We are under some pressure to change the Worcester Police Department. There are calls to defund the WPD, to move some of its funding to other city programs or to change the way in which services are rendered. It is not only the police who are under pressure to change; schools, voting and many other governmental services are also under attack. The
U.S. Post Office is under scrutiny, too, and our health care system (which is actually a sickness care system) is also under attack – often just to save money or to make sure that all are equally served.
All institutions and organizations suffer “hardening of the arteries”: they really need to be reviewed and revitalized periodically and brought into the present. That is why we hear about term limits. We have limits on licences for various professions, as new techniques and new knowledge become available.
Right now, here, we face demands to make major changes to our police department – primarily to make sure that minorities are treated respectfully and fairly. Everyone agrees those are noble and doable goals. But achieving them will require a number of serious changes, not only in our police department, but in a number of other organizations involved in these changes.
We need to ask ourselves some serious questions and to get answers that will enable us to still have protection in many areas now performed by the police. Over the years, more and more of the tasks usually done by others are being done by the police (the same is true of the schools).
So let us first ask ourselves: What functions are the police fulfilling now? Ask them to list all that they do: safety, CPR, domestic interventions, chasing down wanted persons, traffic control, community policing, election supervision, etc. … What functions do we want our police department to perform? Which of their functions are better done by other organizations? What training and education, and how frequently, should we require of police officers so they can be up-to-date and fully informed in the performance of their duties? How do we pay for any new services? If money is short, what do we cut for these new services?
When we have really answered all these questions, involving all the “stakeholders,” then we can form a plan and make some intelligent and long-term changes.
And above all, in a free society, it will be the responsibility of us all to continually monitor what goes on, keep our elected representatives in the loop, and exercise the responsibilities of citizenship all the time.
The new technologies can help, but so far, there is no substitute for a real human on the scene. I have been disappointed in the pictures from body cams. There is still no substitute for trust, for good training, good will – and, for all of us who work for and are paid by the public, to remember at all times that we (police officers, teachers, nurses, all government employees and elected officials) are PUBLIC SERVANTS.
Happy Birthday, Linda💙