By now we have all seen and heard the ripples coming off of the murder of George Floyd. Cities are defunding their PD, and Minneapolis is even going so far as to disband theirs.
What I am asking is ‘what comes next?’ Once cities and towns take these steps, what should come after? I have been thinking about this, and I propose the following:
A Combined LOCAL SERVICES Department that works together. In the larger cities and towns of the US, there should be a single entity at the local community level that combines a security force, the fire department, the sanitation department, the social-services departments, the library, the post office and the health workers. Make this entity a focal point in the community, make sure that local people work there and are part-and-parcel of its functioning. Any community need can then be handled by a combined response team. A fire? Of course send out the fire brigade, but also the social services and health workers (EMTs in this case). Have them help the people affected. Temporary lodgings? Check. Smoke inhalation? Check. Helping the affected get the legal services (insurance, etc) going? Check. All at once, and of course have mental health service people on hand to help with any PTSD or other issues. A robbery? Dispatch the security forces, and also social services to help with any mental health issues. Same with any other community problem. A combined effort, where services are working together and know the people they are helping can ameliorate a lot of fear, anger and disgust. Even making sure that garbage is picked up can be a combined effort. Building has issues with rats or other pests? Social services can help with finding pest control, and get tenants together to work on making their homes free of vermin. Building has issues with structure? Social services can work with a building manager or superintendent to get the building’s owners to get repairs made. And if there’s push-back, legal actions can be started.
In the smaller cities and towns you can still have such entities, and maybe with fewer people working at them, but you still need an entity like this. Having local people working there gives ties to the community, and helps make coming to ask for services easier.
In rural areas a regional entity would probably work best. But as local a regional entity as possible, serving as few communities as possible. The more local it can be, the better off the people it serves will be. And in some areas, yes, you will need mobile groups that do rounds and check on far-flung inhabitants.
Combining the city services into a work-together entity also helps with finding paperwork later. Fire that displaced people and then there was an issue that necessitated a call to security services about domestic violence? One file would help the social services get all the information, and establish what needs to be done easily. Nothing that happens is in a vacuum. Things build on each other. People can have multiple problems that need attention. A City Services entity could be the answer.
When you have services and communities working together, you have a locally based system that will be much easier for local populations to relate to and work with. Cities and towns and villages and rural areas – all need to be assured that their well-being is the first and foremost thing.
Let’s defund police, disband militarized units. But let us also bring services together to really help communities.