What does the “Defund the police” slogan mean? That depends on whom you ask, with the most extreme people advocating for the literal abolition of police departments in cities around the country. Bill Stierle and Tom move away from this extreme towards a more sensible interpretation centered on resource allocation and community support. In many ways, the police are forced to do many things that are not in their area of expertise because of a crime prevention policy that puts too much emphasis on punitive solutions – a fact that has recently come to the fore with incidents of disproportional response and excessive use of force. Bill and Tom believe that this tendency towards overzealous policing can be eliminated by allocating more resources to community-based interventions for crime prevention. Join in as they unravel the complexities one of the most challenging and multifaceted issues in politics – truth and the police.
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Truth And The Police: Crime Prevention, Overpolicing And The “Defund The Police” Slogan
Bill, with everything going on in our country and we did mention this in our episode, it’s time to have a discussion about truth and policing. This is probably a complex subject. One of the more complex ones we’ve discussed because there are lots of facets to it and lots of perspectives around it. We need to discuss that. Don’t you think?
We do. The biggest challenge has to do with, you follow where the money goes. As one former police chief said is that they’re expecting the cops to do too much. If there is a social service problem, they want the cops to do it. The dog catcher if there’s a dog loose, call the cops. What are our resources when we call 911? Is it a criminal thing? Is that a fire thing? Is it this other thing?
Is it health? It’s usually the police, fire, and ambulance.
Those are the three primaries. What happens if something sits on the margin? A homeless person is walking in the middle of the street. Chances of that homeless person getting arrested if you send the cops, but you’re not necessarily sending the fire person for sure because they’re not on fire. Unless the person is lying in the street and injured, you’re not sending the emergency, the health people, the EMTs, and stuff.
I would say it’s on its face, it may well be a traffic problem, which does fall under the police. Although it may be a mental health problem that should fall under health, but they don’t generally send ambulances for mental health problems like that.
Safety is the primary need and then the secondary need is protection. If we take a look at what the expectations are, we would like them to do things regarding safe and we’d like them to do things regarding protection. Those are two things. Is dealing with a homeless person, a safety or protection thing on a scale of 1 to 10? It’s sitting around a three.
It’s low on the scale.
If I’m a politician and I’m going to get votes by saying, “Tough on Crime,” and I got elected, I better get a bill that funds protect on crime. What happens if that’s beyond the scope of this person’s skillset? To be dramatic about this, it’s like hiring an engineer to be a social worker. Would you ever hire an engineer to be a social worker, Tom?
They don’t have the people skills. It’s not on their résumé. They don’t have a degree for it. It’s not their thing. Would you hire a banker to be a nurse?
Different skillset, mindset, and strengths. This is a communication show, we look at social issues and try to say, “How can we communicate about it safely?” When a message shows up called Defund Police Department, what does that mean? Does it mean the global get rid of narrative or does it mean the reallocation of funds and the redistribution that a police department has an entire division that does Social Service issues that you do not send a police person? If you do, the police person is sitting in the second position to the Social Service person that’s knocking on the door.
It’s interesting, Bill, that term, Defund Police. The truth has been purchased around that since it surfaced in the wake of George Floyd in many different ways. It occurred to me and this is my observation and perspective is that the first people that coined that phrase had the intention of not abolishing police departments nationwide, or even in their city. Wherever they were first talking about it but it was more of, “Let’s take some of the funds that are going to policing and remove those funds to more different things that are going to help support the community and prevent crime so the police won’t need to do some of the things they’re doing.” That’s how I viewed it as more of community support as a means to deter and prevent the need for police in some situations but then there’s a defund on the police, you’ve got to have police. Although, there are some extreme people who are talking about abolishing the police department so everybody’s come out of the woodwork on this term.
Depending on a person’s mindset about the police, did they have a benign experience or a violent experience of them? If they have a violent experience, then the police are going to show up to them who’s somebody that’s going to terrify them. They’re going to go, like, “Let’s get rid of this group because I’ve been traumatized by this group.” Instead of, “What we’re doing is we’re applying an adult mindset to this, which is what the proportion to this is.” When your kids spill milk, you don’t take away their privileges for two weeks and stick them in the closet. The proportionality is problematic. That’s one of the things that the police departments and the whole industrial complex that’s built around the legal system. That here’s what the rule is. A felony means stealing. If you steal a candy bar and it happens to be your third strike, that’s 25 to life. That’s what the voters voted for. The voters are voting for their need for safety to be met. They’re hoping that the smart people will go like, “This is what they voted for, but this is not what’s practical for society.” People go like, “No, it is the letter of the law. There is no variation in this, and I need to build another prison in order to deal with what you voted for.” A prison bond, whatever the thing on the ballot is.
The money to pay for it. That adds a whole other layer of complexity that I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole, Bill, but the entire private prison industry that exists because of the vast number of people that America has incarcerated.
We’re exasperated as human beings. As the animal body that we’re in because our limbic brain goes after safety and protection, it creates a story of fear. It creates a story of the need for protection. All you’ve got to do is see an image, and then you’re going like, “We need to create a story of protection.” It’s one of the reasons why during wartime, nowadays, they are careful about any images of war reaching the American public. We’re cautious about that. We don’t want the public to know because then public sentiment will turn when you see a village being burned in Vietnam. You’re going like, “What are we doing there to those people?” We’re not those people.Our brain constantly creates a story of fear and the need for protection. Click To Tweet
Bill, hasn’t that happened here domestically with the death of George Floyd?
That’s what’s happened. There are 2 or 3 images that I have from the Vietnam War that is burned in my head. The little girl being burned walking out of a village like this. Her body was completely burned from a village being burned by Napalm in Vietnam. It’s like, “Do I want that image in my head?” No. “Do I want the image of George Floyd losing his life the way he did?” No. I don’t want that image.
It certainly has raised awareness, as we say, for the brutal tactics that are happening in policing.
Brutal tactics changes to the overcompensation for protection that’s not proportional. $20 is not proportional to a guy getting his neck kneeled upon. We’re going to feel sad, helpless, and overwhelmed about the level of violence we see because we’re a human being like everybody else. The only challenge is that if the human being has been cultured to believe that here’s a bunch of good people and here’s a bunch of bad people, then I feel I want to be on the side of good people. One of the things you and I talked about a little bit before we got on the show was the show Cops got canceled.
That is a reaction to everything going on with all the protests in the United States about the treatment of people by the police and disproportionately the treatment of African American people or people of color by the police. It’s interesting because there is an article that we’re going to have for this episode at PurchasingTruth.com or BillStierle.com. It was first canceled in 2013 by Fox. It was on Fox for many years, starting in 1989. The reason that Fox canceled it was that they argued that although Cops were marketed, as on bias, the show offers a highly filtered version of crime and the criminal justice system, where the police are always competent crime-solving heroes and the bad boys always get caught. They canceled it back then. Another cable network, the Paramount TV Network picked it up and they’re the ones who have announced they’re canceling it. It was going to start on June 15th and it’s done. I don’t think they’re going to get many advertisers at this point wanting to advertise on a show that shows the police were always the heroes and the bad guys always get caught. That’s not in alignment with the sentiment of most Americans now.
At this moment, I’m not sure any brand would align itself with that thing and how many people can you get to show up for that? As police have said is that show for the number of years, it was on Fox was a great recruiting tool. “You want to be one of the good guys, come join us. Do you want to fight for good? Show us.” The person that’s coming in that’s being recruited as a person might have experiences of helplessness and being on the struggle of power over experiences from their past. Maybe there are a lot of people that are there in the spot and I would go ahead and strive to say the majority of people that are in law enforcement are doing good. This is not a bad apple conversation. This is how the belief structure of a person, both being the person that is to serve and protect changes to serve and protect looks like this version of serve and protect. That’s how truth gets purchased, Tom, is this is the belief of what it looks like. We are sensitive people. Human beings are sensitive creatures.
All you’ve got to do is put an image in and if the image gets locked into long-term memory and it has an emotion to it, then this is wrong and this is right. Instead of saying, “There’s a variance here that’s going on between the wrong and the right of it.” I am not snowflaking this, I want to meet the need for safety and protection for the cops. Their needs for safety needs to be met but also, it’s like I’m sending a person in that has a belief structure that sets them up to go in like, “These protesters are getting out of hand. I have a need for an order that goes ahead of the need for serve and protect. The need for order is they’re not following the curfew.” That doesn’t mean that they need to, because if they do, they’ll go home if they’re following it. If they don’t, you’re still there to serve and protect them. If they’re not doing anything, that’s a problem and they’re breaking the curfew line. You’re following the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law, which includes other needs. The letter of the law, everybody needs to be at home at 9:00 PM but the spirit of the law is this person has a need to be heard and a need for justice. They’re not going to bed until sometime after midnight.
Bill, let’s go on this the letter of the law is what we’ve always referred to in this show as black and white thinking, and that’s not a racial term that is right or wrong and that’s what it’s meant to be. No gray areas and you’re thinking, it’s either one way or the other way. The spirit of the law, it gets a little murky. That is if someone is to make a judgment or to change their actions or behavior based on the spirit of the law, they’re not that type of thinker. They are seeing beyond the absolute and binary choice.
They’re having a range and have the ability to discuss with somebody else to go in like, “I am not going home.” All of a sudden the police go like, “How can we send a message to this crowd? We’ll arrest that guy and arrest that guy and then the crowd will disperse.” They have a belief that, “I’m going to prostitute to the letter of law. The only problem is that there are 100 more of them coming that you’ve done those two things because temporarily you might’ve fixed something, but systematically you have not.
They’re not applying that standard evenly to all the people perhaps. I tell you, I am glad I am not a police officer. I can think there are few jobs like it. Their training and what they have to do out on the streets is complex and to know where the line is. If I think about, “Where do you draw the line to draw your gun, to meet your own need for safety and protection versus taking action that’s going to have respect for the people’s need for safety and protection?” It’s not an easy job. There’s no way it’s an easy job being a police officer. I don’t know how they train, I’m going to put that out there. I do not have perspective on that, but my impression is they’re not as heavily trained in empathy and compassion as they are in the preservation of their own life in certain situations. I know, Bill, we talked about it before we started that it’s worth bringing up one little example is that, when police are trained to use their weapon, their gun to protect themselves, they’re not trained to shoot to disable.
An important thing to bring up is that to shoot to disable and to shoot to kill. I’m going to propose something that’s even a little more disturbing this. To use force, to manage emotion. Usually, if you’re arresting somebody, the person has a lot of emotion going on there, and to use a weapon to manage emotion, this is not a strong strategy. Do you get somebody upset to manage emotions? You’re going to use that or use a threat. “If you don’t calm down, I’m going to take you to jail.” For a person that’s upset and all of a sudden, “You’re going to do what? No, you’re not taking me to jail.” To somebody that at least has a little bit more of an adult line mind or is not upset. That threat could be the thing that either gets them to calm down or throws them over the line. What winds up happening is the vibration of language is the thing that hijacks the truth. It’s like, “Yes, that’s a truth, but that’s not the best intention is for anybody to get arrested here or anybody to get shot here.” Notice that there’s not much room between those two things. You’re either going to get arrested or you’re going to get shot. There’s no how can we manage our emotions here and how can we get order and safety to show up? How can everybody get the protection that they need in this environment? How can we get that?
That’s complex, isn’t it?
It’s complex because you’ve got a husband or wife and they’re pushing each other in the house. One of them calls the police. They’ve both got red marks on. The wife says, “Take him to jail.” The husband says, “Take her to jail.” The police are left with the red mark evidence. The police get what they say, “We’ll take you both to jail.”
It’s a no-win situation.
It’s like, “It looks like neither of us wants to go to jail.” Maybe or, “Let’s take that out for a spin. Let’s see how that one works.” It’s the need for protection and safety, there’s no training to deal with how to use language with emotion. I could say all derogatory things and I’ll piss people off. They will call me all kinds of names. They can because all you have to do is put a phrase there, but it’s how they’re hearing it. Even if I say it is the most benign way, it doesn’t matter if I don’t have any control about how their brain is getting activated here. The police are in a no-win situation because what do you say next and when do you have to use force with this person to do this? It’s like, “We need protection and safety here. Would you be willing to take three steps back?” That is a compassionate way to ask somebody to do something. “In order to get some safety and space from this, would you be willing to take three-step backwards here?” “I’ll take three steps back. You take three steps back, will that work for you?” Immediately I’m going, like, “I’ve made a request.” I didn’t say, “Sir, if you don’t calm down, I’m going to take you to jail.” Calm down. They’re going to escalate.
Have you ever heard a police officer speak that way, Bill?America would be a more pleasant place if our police stopped traumatizing our own population. Click To Tweet
Only the ones I’ve trained.
I didn’t know that was the answer so the readers know that. I wasn’t setting you up for that. That was a genuine question.
You didn’t even know that I had experience there. One of my greatest students, mentees, he’s a probation officer and he uses this material all the time. His success rate leads the department when he was working there before he retired. He was leading the space because he got all of his people to be compliant using language, no threats, no hold the sword of Damocles over their head.
If I could say there aren’t enough Bill Stierle’s in the country to be able to retrain all the police officers to think and act a little differently. It seems that we have such a large system of law enforcement in this country, whether you like it or not, it’s there and there are a lot of complexities too.
You said there’s not enough Bill Stierle’s, and I want to let you know, everybody out here, that’s reading this, there are enough people. The only thing is that that’s what the defunding means. It’s the reallocation of resources towards counselors and Social Services. There is enough of me. There’s plenty of me out there. There’s not as many that it has taken this stuff out for a spin the way I have but there’s enough with good thinking and to stare this thing down. There are expansive elements that could be added to a police department. The funds will get reallocated in a different way. The police are not put in a position where they’re going to get stuck in a place to use excessive violence. It’s not even excessive violence. They’re going to be in a place where the use of force appears to be necessary because if you have somebody that is struggling with drugs, you need a counselor there. You don’t necessarily need a police officer there. We’ve got to stop traumatizing our own population or society. We’ve got to stop traumatizing ourselves, which is where the through-line is.
America would certainly be a much more pleasant place if we got to that place. It does seem though in the wake of George Floyd’s death, what happens is a light gets shine so much on overzealous policing, excessive use of force, things that are way out of proportion in this case anyway, with the crime that was alleged of forging $20 check or something along those lines. All the reaction is serving to do what? What have we seen the action taken by most police departments or most states is they’re outlawing chokeholds, they’re outlying kneeling on people’s necks and some of the actual physical acts that can easily take a life. They’re not focusing on what you’re suggesting, Bill.
If there was something that I would recommend Congress doing is saying, “I don’t know if it would be called something, the Community Reinvestment Act that it would be more like to serve and protect.”
Maybe compassionate policing.
It’s got to be built. Each department needs to have a team that focuses on the bridge, the inner personalizers, the people that are strong with emotional language, the people that can communicate their way through a conflict without taking a swing. It’s a team depending on the size of the department. Initially, you started with around thirteen people and you get those thirteen people to start doing the things, to build the relationships between the police and the population. I remember seeing a video or a picture of police cooking hot dogs and doing it at a police community day on a block. Here’s this cop serving burgers or hot dogs to people. That money spends, if you want safety and cooperation to be in the environment, you don’t want to stick the guy with a face shield and a baton while he’s doing that. It’s going to be a mask and you don’t want them to present as this stick or gun could hurt me. We want to get the cooperation between our interpersonal relationship and this concept called safety and protection and step into that. I know that there’s a lot here to go into, but the main thing is that the expectations have to change for the police. The second part of it is that we need a different mindset and talent set to be available for the police so they’re not put in the situation of the circumstance to do that. That’s the thing that’s going to make the biggest difference next.
Bill, this is a good start. There are many pieces to this, and we’ll address some of these what more might take some deeper dives into portions of it in the future. This is a hard subject to try to wrap your head around. I appreciate what you shared with us, Bill.
Next time, let’s talk about the money and the politics of this and how regrettably politicians over the years have fed the protection narrative and have fed that police are the answer for that whether it’s Democratic or Republican. The Crime Bill under Bill Clinton did some horrific things to us, and it set us into the place because if he didn’t do it, his opponent was going to do it. He beat him to it so he’d get reelected because his opponent would say stuff.
Former President Bill Clinton has come out with some regret over that. Looking back at what has happened over that. I believe President Barack Obama tried to undo some of that by giving commuting sentences of nonviolent drug offenders and things like that. That’s an interesting place to talk about going forward is the politics and the money and how that has had an impact on truth with regard to policing and criminal justice.
More to come on that, Tom. The nation is in a place where there can be some movement around this issue.