Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Loading More Responsibility on the Police

The death of George Floyd led to a nationwide "Black Lives Matter" movement that reached all the way to Richardson. The mayor marched with and addressed Richardson residents at a "Black Lives Matter" rally at City Hall. The City Council unanimously approved a statement condemning racism. The City Council called Chief Jim Spivey to brief the council on department policies. It all sounded so woke.

But. You knew there'd be a but.

In two and a half hours with Chief Spivey, no one said, "Black Lives Matter." No one called for any specific change, or even any specific process to identify any specific change. The police budget adopted for 2020-2021 is virtually identical to the one from 2019-2020.

Now this week we learned that the Richardson Police Department is expanding its responsibilities. According to Olivia Lueckemeyer of Community Impact Newspaper, "The Richardson Police Department will soon have a team of officers dedicated to addressing mental health issues in the community." "The team will include two sergeants, 13 patrol officers and three school resource officers as well as one registered nurse and one social worker from Methodist Richardson."

The new functionality is wise, but the implementation is ass backwards. The team should have 13 social workers and one police officer, not the other way around. It shouldn't be under the police department at all. Rather than train police officers to be mental health professionals (they aren't, they never will be, their training will always rightfully prioritize dealing with crime not mental health issues), we ought to hire more mental health professionals (their career interest and training are in that field).

I can't help feeling that no one in Richardson has really heard the cries for policing reform. Instead of reform, instead of beefing up local programs for homelessness, mental health assistance, and domestic violence, the Richardson way is to beef up the police department, give officers 40 hours of training and make them the front line for dealing with mental health issues in the community as well as violent crimes, as if the two can or should be dealt with by the same people and same skills.

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