By Bill Brazier:
Like most Americans, I am disturbed by the abuse of Black Americans by police, and want to do something about it. One opportunity came earlier this month in the form of a vigil at the Fairfax County Police Department headquarters, which was not just a protest but also delivered a precise agenda for action.
The event was attended by a diverse crowd about about 300, spread out on the traffic circle in the middle of an expanse of land surrounded by three tall government buildings on a sunny summer afternoon, June 2, from 6- 7 pm.
Addressing us was the local organizer for Showing Up for Racial Justice, which defines itself as “a national network of groups and individuals working to undermine white supremacy and to work for racial justice.”
The organizer, Cayce Utley, gave us a clear course of civic action to pursue.
One of the most important and urgent is to demand that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors move county funds from police resources to community-boosting county services.
For example, we can tell the supervisors to curtail purchasing heavy weaponry and equipment that intimidates and hurts people, and use the saved funds for after-school childcare or community activities.
This approach moves our budget from “re-active” resources to “pro-active” ones. If we want our kids and communities to be safer, let’s make sure they’re cared for and educated, and have constructive things to do in their free time.
Right now, the Fairfax County FY21 budget appropriations for police is $215 million. By contrast, community-building offices and agencies are appropriated $299 million. This includes Economic Development, Housing & Community Development, Libraries, and Family Services.
In other words, the Police Department alone gets an amount that is 72% of the entire sum appropriated to community-building services. This seems to me to be something the Board of Supervisors can examine closely—with our help.
There are many other ways we can explore the re-allocation of funds away from law “enforcement” and “punishment” and “control” toward more pro-active, affirmative government services and agencies. I would refer the reader to an excellent opinion piece in the New York Times from May 30, 2020.
One area of expenditure for the police department we should increase, however is professional learning, certification, and education in cultural and racial competence for police personnel.
In my examination of the learning standards for becoming a police officer on the Commonwealth of Virginia website, I saw no learning requirements that focus on, or even deal explicitly with, the cultural and social experiences in relation to law enforcement of African-American communities. This, to me, is a serious gap in the learning plan for our police force.
Police can’t overcome the legacy of hate and violence in our society if they don’t know about it and can’t explore it in constructive professional learning environments.
Let’s tell our elected government leaders to put resources toward building positive, constructive communities and better relationships with government services—especially our legal and law enforcement systems.
As Democrats and as citizens, we should strive to be on the right side of history—the side that values law and order through constructive, cooperative, interactive communities whose needs are met by support services.
We should strive to create and implement these services pro-actively rather than re-actively, and with learning and community conversations over the proper meaning of “enforcement.”
Main photo: About 300 turned out on June 2 to hear practical suggestions for Fairfax County to counter racism in policing/ Photo by Bill Brazier
Bill Brazier is a former administrator at Loudoun County Public Schools with degrees in political science, international relations, and philosophy. He is a member of Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee and has worked on multiple campaigns for national, state and local candidates
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