by Rev. Schuyler Rhodes
I am a resident of Woodland, and I would like to begin this letter with a note of clarity. First, I have the highest respect for the men and women who serve in law enforcement across the country. I have family in law enforcement and I have an idea of the courage, commitment and sacrifice this takes. Second, I want it known that I believe that we need law enforcement. I have lived and served as a Pastor in urban and rural settings around our nation and I have witnessed and benefited from the presence of a well-trained civilian police force, whose mission is to serve and protect the people. To these men and women I offer a profound note of thanks and gratitude.
The situation we face today, however, isn’t about a civilian police force (or Sheriff’s Department) whose mission is to protect and serve. It’s about the increasing militarization of law enforcement across our nation. It’s about giving military style training and equipment to people who are not the military. A few weeks ago I awoke to a SWAT Team with more than twenty men in full battle dress with automatic weapons descending upon my neighbor’s house. These “soldiers” with the words “police” on their desert camo uniforms wore black masks to hide their faces, and they were accompanied by an armored personnel carrier complete with a heavy machine gun on the turret. This, in a country that has the lowest crime rate in fifty years. One has to wonder why.
This is not a police presence. This is a military assault unit. There is a huge difference between the two, and we do not want or need military assault units in our community. The addition of a third armored personnel carrier into Yolo County’s Sheriff’s Department is unnecessary and moves much needed policing in a very wrong direction. If you arm and train our police as though they were a military assault unit they will no longer serve and protect us. If this seems far-fetched, check in with communities of color around our nation who have been assaulted by a militarized police.
So it is that I add my voice to a growing chorus of people who want a well-trained civilian law enforcement capacity, but are opposed to a military assault vehicle being part of the sheriff’s inventory of law enforcement tools. I urge the Board of Supervisors to reject this proposal. The County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take this up at its April 25th meeting. Show up. Be heard.
The Rev. Schuyler Rhodes – Superintendent, Bridges District – California Nevada Annual Conference – The United Methodist Church