The story of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, the three girls kidnapped in Cleveland, Ohio and held captive for ten years, has captivated the nation.
In the days since the three women escaped from the house where they were being held, many have speculated as to why they weren’t found sooner, especially since Cleveland police had visited the house on prior occasions, and since neighbors had reportedly called the police over strange behavior at the house multiple times.
One notion that has been floated around as a possible reason for why the girls were not found sooner is the decline of community policing and preventative policing in America.
The federal Community Oriented Policing Services program, or COPS, which provides resources for local police forces around the country was initiated in 1994 during the Clinton administration, as part of an effort to put 100,000 police officers on America’s streets.
Unfortunately, ever since the Bush administration began, the COPS program has seen its funding continually slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars, thanks to Conservatives in Congress, hell-bent on creating militarized local police forces, to complement our nation’s military industrial complex.
Rather than supporting effective policing techniques that can help to prevent crime, Conservatives are throwing millions of dollars at more high-tech things, like armor and weaponry for SWAT teams, helping to create a hyper militarized police force in America.
In 2010, $792 million was allotted in the form of federal grants under the COPS program for local police forces across the country; By 2012, that number had shrunken to just $199 million.
As a result of this drastic underfunding, police forces across the nation find themselves unable to adequately police their districts, and the ideas of community policing, and building a report with citizens are just pipe dreams.
And that’s very unfortunate, because community policing really works.
Just ask Madison, Wisconsin police officer Katie Adler.
Adler is a neighborhood officer in the crime-ridden North Side area of Madison. Unlike regular patrol cops in Madison, neighborhood officers are put in at-risk communities, to help make a difference, building relationships with citizens in the hopes preventing future crime.
Every day, Adler walks the beat in a half-dozen apartment complex communities. In five years, Adler has built up relationships with hundreds of community members, and its rare for her to see someone she doesn’t know.
Officer Katie, as everyone calls her, is beloved in the communities that she patrols, so much so that kids follow her wherever she goes. She’s even inspiring children in the communities to become police officers when they grow up.
Now, of course Officer Katie’s passion for the job and her relationships with community members can’t stop every crime from occurring. But if she’s able to stop just one person from making the wrong decision, it’s a job well done.
Unfortunately, Office Katie is the last of a dying breed.
Community officers looking to prevent crime are being replaced by police officers that are almost looking to provoke it, using high-tech gismos that belong on the front-lines of war, not on America’ s streets.
If you don’t believe me, just look at footage from Occupy Wall Street protests, anti-war rallies and even protests outside of last year’s Republican National Convention.
It’s crazy how militarized our police forces have become.
Even police officers recognize how out-of-whack policing in America has become.
On last night’s episode of The Big Picture, we talking about the downfall of community policing in America.
Marc Harrold, a libertarian commentator and former police officer, said that he had concerns about the federal government, and Congress, prioritizing how local police forces allocate their resources.
He also said that programs like COPS had been de-funded because of America’s addiction to the failed war on drugs, which has given rise to the militarized police forces that we see today.
The bottom-line is that community policing works. It has a positive impact on reducing levels of crime, it helps to reduce the fear of crime in communities, and it helps enhance the quality of life overall in communities.
If there had been an “Officer Katy” on the beat in the Cleveland neighborhood where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were originally kidnapped, these women may never have had to face the horrors that they did over the last decade, or, at the very least, could have been saved much earlier.
It’s time to throw away the battering rams and ditch the armored vehicles.
We need fewer SWAT teams with militarized weaponry in America, and more Officer Katie’s.