Over the last couple of weeks, this photo has been floating around the inner tubes with slightly different captions. One retired LEO told me it was a fictitious meme that highlighted the unrealistic expectations of allowing non-LEOs to do “their” job with only words. When I pointed out that mental health professionals and special ed teachers have been doing exactly that for quite a long time and that the meme did not hold law enforcement in a positive light, I got no response. Same thing from another poster after I pointed out the example of Camden, New Jersey, which has “defunded” the police now for decades.
So here’s another example, courtesy of CNN. Does CAHOOTS work everywhere? Probably not — every community will have their own particulars to work out — but it’s a much better starting point for meaningful discussion and reform than two smirking yahoos. What do you think?
UPDATE: In what has to be a rather misleading title, the Orange County Register has a story on efforts in Anaheim, California to implement the CAHOOTS program there. According to the paper, the Anaheim Police Department established a Homeless Outreach Team in 2013 in part to assist the homeless into housing to help alleviate crime by and upon homeless persons. Since 2013 and staffed by three uniformed officers, over 400 people were helped into some form of housing over those last eight years. The newly-formed Community Care Response teams helped 254 clients into housing in just their first three months of operation, and the police department has seen a 25 percent reduction in calls for service related to homeless individuals.
It should be noted that the officers previously assigned to the Homeless Outreach Team were not eliminated from the department, but were reassigned to another community services unit. You can read the whole story here.
UPDATE NO. 2 (October 18, 2021): This post has garnered a little attention from Facebook posts about the ongoing situation in Portland, Oregon. I would be curious if anyone has any first-hand knowledge of what’s happening in the cities I mentioned — Eugene, Camden, and Anaheim — not to mention that of Portland. Interestingly enough, and purely by coincidence, I have some experience with all four cities. I have spent a fair amount of time in both Eugene and Portland and have never really encountered any memorable impressions of law enforcement or crime in either city one way or the other, although I would say that I have always felt safe everywhere I have been. I can’t say the same about Camden. Back in the 1980s I drove through Camden a couple of times while staying in the Philadelphia area and I considered it to be the ”armpit of the world.” I haven’t been back since and I am certainly hopeful that situation has changed. As for Anaheim, I grew up in Orange County and from at least the 1960s the Anaheim Police Department had a nasty reputation for the way it treated citizens. I myself was physically assaulted by an Anaheim police officer at a Rams football game in the 1980s. Here again, I am happy to see the city making some sorely needed changes.
These kinds of programs need to continue and they need to be expanded throughout the country. At the same time, while there are many good police officers out there, there are also many bad ones. Oftentimes their biases are hidden from the public. I am personally aware of and have seen private Facebook groups of officers, former officers, and retirees who post blatantly racist stories and memes in these private groups insulated from the public and from their superiors. Until we can do a better job of recruiting and training better police officers, there isn’t going to be a whole lot of support for increased police budgets and more personnel on the streets. Still, the kinds of things I am seeing in cities such as Eugene, Camden, and Anaheim, as well as the greater transparency of police in general gives me hope.