By Gloria Partida
As a football fan, punting is probably my least favorite play. I understand the move from a strategic stand point but I can’t help but feel that the team should just keep trying. The question of disparities in policing around traffic stops and charge recommendations is complicated. Depending on where your standing, what you see can be very different. To add to the complexity, all views are true. The fact that people of color are arrested and charged at higher rates than their white counter parts is widely accepted. There are many parts to unpack around this fact. Poverty, trauma and embedded racism in systems cause more people of color to encounter situations that involve the police. This accounts for some of the disparity. The defund the police movement is aimed at the leveling of this imbalance. It is also the piece of the movement I am most interested in.
The investment of resources into people’s lives that can counter trauma, housing insecurity and lack of enrichment is a powerful tool. I was part of a small group of students in my neighborhood schools that were singled out as high achieving. We had a dedicated team of teachers that introduced us to back packing, environmental justice, opera and advanced discussions on what was going on in the world outside of our small circle. It was eye opening and challenging to navigate the spaces between two worlds. The impact of having a support system around our young lives was transformative. Even still, not all of us were successful. The ability to create a framework of support around the most vulnerable in our community is doable. We have the networks in place. What we need is coordination.
Imagine what a difference it would make for struggling families to be able to have their children safely participating in summer programs when they cannot afford to have all day care. Imagine what it would mean to children to be able to swim rather than be idle all summer. Add to this the ability to receive training on job readiness to be able to work in the City summer youth programs. Imagine a robust coordination between the City and School district for identifying and supporting programs needed. Imagine art and culture programs that engages our communities at the margins and provides spaces that they can learn and take leadership in. There are many small interventions that can move our vulnerable populations onto paths that improve their success. Imagine being able to fund all of this.
Our City staff does a great job of strategically applying for and winning grants. It is not the best way to pay for programs that need long term funding. Reimagining policing ask us to imagine what our communities would look like if less money went to policing and more went to supporting social programs. In theory, the more you invest in social programs the less you would need to police communities. The movement towards this reality should be deliberate. Like any moonshot, it must be well planned and tested. This is quite different from a punt.
The other reason there are disparities in policing is implicit bias. Racism in systems is a large part of what keeps people of color in poverty and in the path of policing. Everything from red lining, to keeping people of color out of public housing during the new deal, to the war on drugs, to the shameful history of medical experimentation on people of color are examples of institutional racism. We have done much to acknowledge the need to address racism in our systems. We have much to do to correct the course of it’s long history. The requirement for implicit bias training for our police department is a small step in the right direction. The delta between people having police encounters because of their socio-economic circumstances and because of their race is where interpreting the RIPA data gets murky. This is also why my questioning of Chief Pytel felt like a struggle for possession of the ball.
In fairness, I don’t know if Darren deflected my question as much as I felt he missed my question. He did correctly point out that the buck stopped at the DA’s office. He also stated that he did not fully understand what the recommendation around charging referred to. Essentially what I wanted to know was all things being equal if you pull over two people with expired plates and broken tail lights and one is white and one is not do you give both a ticket or do you give the white person a ticket but ask to search the POC’s car. If you search both cars do you report the minor drugs you found in the POC’s car and not the white persons. This is a reality in the world. Disparities in policing and charging center around this issue. All things being equal POC are arrested and charged at higher rates. The fact that the RIPA numbers show higher rates for POC is not surprising because the world has set POC on paths that will involve the police. What I want to know is if our police department is equitable when those paths meet. I know teasing this information out of the data will be difficult but it must be done. I am encouraged that we have set in motion many things that will ensure we are doing everything we can to be equitable.
That we will find implicit bias in our police department will not be surprising. Studies have found that preschoolers of color are disciplined at higher rates than then their white peers. If preschool teachers need implicit bias training it should not be earth shattering that our police departments need it as well. It is difficult sometimes in a public meeting to arrive at understanding. The dialogue and relationship council has had with the police department has been healthy and I have faith that it will arrive at a productive place. Chief Pytel and I may not have gotten to the answer to does our department had a set protocol for stops and what triggers a car search? Is it just a gut feeling? but really it may not have an answer for a while. The important thing is that he is willing to take the question.
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