The Department of Everything Else

Safer communities together. If people ask about the Police that’s what comes to mind. It’s an old slogan that the Police here in New Zealand used. I go to look it up and find something different, Our mission is for New Zealand to be the safest country in the world. I’m OK with the new mission  seeing is as I live here.

Then I see what others have to put up with and I feel really good about it. Our guys are tops. Best police in the world. No armoured vehicles, no robocop style armour, no purchasing of ex military hardware. Heads screwed on and all that.

Is there more to it though, leadership can’t be the only difference. Perhaps not, the U.S. police has leadership. If you watch the video, they also have an impossible mission. As the country closes down funding for other services, the costs and effort play out on the Police. Watch the video. Reduce funding for mental health services and the effort transfers to the police. Reduce funding for the management of stray dogs and the effort falls onto the police.

I remember talking to a senior  police officer here in NZ many years ago. When I asked what the role of police was, he described police as the everything else department. If something happened that was not within the scope of another government agency, it fell to the police.

The flow on is simple. Let’s take mental health for example. If you fund that, people who experience problems have a place to go. Access to medication, support and professional advice to better manage their disease. Potentially a way to participate in society, hold down a job. Fence at the top of the cliff.

Remove the funding and the support that provides and you lose a lot of people whose issues will play out in public. It becomes a problem for the police taking time and attention off other things. People with problems end up moving into jails and when they are released, their coping skills are reduced meaning that they become another burden on the police. Ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. 

If the police are underfunded then the time and attention dealing with the mentally unwell (whose problems may play out in the form of violence against others) takes police time and attention away from other duties such as property crime. Stretch them enough and parts of your society can go feral creating dangerous, lawless ghettos. A pile of broken bodies at the bottom of the cliff. 

I like safer communities together, really I do.

Update: I wrote this before I learned of this, an unarmed black mental health caregiver lying on his back, hands in the air, gets shot by the police. I take it all back. To the US police, go sort your shit out. You are insane. There is no way you can claim to be a healthy organization if stuff like this occurs. Deal with it!

Story Inspiration: will the Police end up creating a special mental health division, a dog control division, a child protection division as other agencies shuck off responsibility or get underfunded out of existence. What happens if every agency you dealt with had guns and the power of arrest. 

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