Tell me again why we can’t defund the police

One of the homey little touches in my local newspaper, the Times Argus, is the regular listing from the police blotter. This is labeled “a sampler” from the log; I can’t say how they choose what they print. I’d assume it’s somewhat representative.

Well, if it is, then Montpelier could probably get by with a couple fewer cops. The latest Police Log largely contains calls that didn’t require an armed response, and every log is simliar in content. Let’s run it down, shall we?

Feb. 1: On Northfield Street, a report of someone having seizures who was using alcohol and Valium was unfounded.

Well, ehh. Better handled by a trained social worker. Which is one of the ideas offered by the “Defund the Police” movement: Fewer cops and more social worker/counselor types.

A vehicle broke down on Main Street.

I’d suggest calling Bob’s Sunoco. Very prompt towing service. Or AAA if you’re a member.

Someone from Oregon called to report their Vermont phone number was prank called. They were told to contact their local police.

Yeah, no.

Feb. 2: A trash can was blocking a sidewalk plow on Pearl Street.

Get out of the truck and move the damn thing.

After the jump: The carnage continues.

Property was lost on Main Street.

Well, maybe if it was stolen.

Cash was found on the sidewalk on Main Street.

I guess the MPD operates a lost and found?

A suspicious package was reported on Dover Road.

Maybe. Probably. Better safe than sorry.

Feb. 3 Someone was outside a residence on School Street.

I don’t want to jump to conclusions. If this was reported by a vulnerable person living alone, or a person who had a regular problem with a stalker, yes, send the police. Otherwise, ehh.

Items were stolen from a building on Main Street.

Nope. Not unless the thief is still on site. Otherwise, you’re sending a couple of armed cops to do a bit of stenography.

A water leak was reported on First Avenue.

This is a job for… the Water and Sewer Department! (Unless it’s a real gusher.)

Feb. 4: Someone was driving erratically on Main Street.

Better send a cop.

A piece of furniture was stolen off of a front porch on Liberty Street.

More stenography. Besides, it’s really their fault for putting it on the porch.

Someone was in the road causing a traffic hazard on Berlin Street.

I’d say send a cop. Might be a crash by the time the police arrive.

Feb. 5: A neighbor was yelling on Hebert Road.

No, not at all.

On Hebert Road, an incident of child abuse was reported.

Again, more social worker than law enforcement.

There was a suspicious vehicle on Hebert Road.

Need a little more information here, but I doubt it’s really police work.

Feb. 6: A dog was running loose on Elm Street.

Good heavens. No.

On Gallison Hill Road, a vehicle was stuck.

Bob’s Sunoco, 24-hour service.

A water leak was reported on Cummings Street.

Again with the pipes? Not a case for the police unless people are in danger of drowning.

On Foster Street, a utility line was hanging low.

I can see this. If the line is so low it might be hit by a passing vehicle, then yes, the police need to be on hand to divert traffic.

That’s a total of 20 police calls over a six-day period. By my fairly generous count, three of them merited a police response. Three others might have. The other 14? Nope.

Now, there are real logistical problems with shrinking a police department the size of Montpelier’s. You have to have enough officers to be on duty 24/7. You need higher-ranking police who handle serious crimes and/or handle management duties. The Montpelier PD has 17 sworn officers plus another 10 staffers. Not much fat there.

But a lot of calls that we consider police business really aren’t. Many could be better handled by someone trained for the purpose of dealing with troubled people, like a social worker. (Or an on-call plumber for those pesky water leaks.) Police departments are a huge drain on municipal budgets. If we trimmed police funding and hired skilled intervenors, the result would be better service and public safety for the same price.

I’m not a professional administrator and I don’t play one on TV. There may be good arguments for not doing this. But to me, it looks like resting on traditional practice instead of giving it a fresh look.

And hey look, the city is making an effort on this front. From the FY2021 budget book:

This budget adds a share of a potential Social Worker. This position would be housed in Washington County Mental Health Services, shared with the City of Barre and partially funded with grant money.

Thinking outside the box. I like. More, please.

5 thoughts on “Tell me again why we can’t defund the police

  1. Roger Fox

    Hey, John – In your ongoing quest for sources of more engaging journalism, I highly recommend the Police, Fire, Rescue And Court Blotter section of Morrisville’s News & Citizen (https://www.vtcng.com/news_and_citizen/news/police_blotter/ – and no paywall!). A brief sampler of particularly entertaining recent posts:
    Jan. 22 at 8:27 a.m., deputies were asked to remove squatters from a Route 100 residence in North Hyde Park. Further investigation revealed that the people aren’t squatters but actually tenants; police told them to resolve the matter with their landlord.
    Jan. 22 at 9:41 p.m., an elderly Hyde Park resident called police to report strange noises on the roof and an ongoing issue with the lighting in her home. After an investigation the deputy determined that the noise was a light bulb. He replaced the bulb, which resolved the problem.
    Jan. 23 at 10:01 a.m., police located the owners of cows that were wandering around on Randolph Road and asked them to round them up.

    Reply
  2. Kathryn Trudell

    American communities have had police for over 150 years. In the wild West there were sheriffs. We had judges and marshals assigned to large territories. Native Americans have tribal police. But local communities have always established law enforcement soon after people set up towns and settlements. Part of the reason is the deterrent factor. It is like having car insurance. You hope you will never need it, but for the imperative major events they must be there. They are part of the fabric of a community. No police presence or a greatly reduced presence will see increased crime. Guaranteed. It’s called human nature. Now, it is perfectly legitimate to debate how big a force a town or city needs. But that must be done in a reasoned and thoughtful manner, not as a reaction to a “woke” cancel culture. Now it has become political. You want to attach a social worker to a police department? Okay, maybe that’s not a bad idea. But I guarantee you that if you send a social worker on a domestic disturbance call, you had better send an armed police officer with her or him. I read online several months ago that one city sent such a worker on such a call, and the male shot and killed her. You must not expose people to danger so you can be seen as politically correct. That is a topic for reasonable debate among local town officials. But the people involved must be free to do so without being afraid of politically correct reprisals from pressure groups. The first thing they must consider is the number of police officers they need to keep the people and property in their community safe. There are bad guys out there, even in Vermont.

    Reply
  3. walter moses

    The impression most people get from the Progs is one that gets rid of 30% whether good or bad. Maybe this is how it works if based on seniority. There are lots of good cops out there, and a few bad ones that need to go. But you are correct, who needs a cop for a leaky pipe, or a cat stuck in a tree?

    Reply
  4. bombaysapphiremartiniupwithextraolivesstirred

    I always got a charge out of reading the police report in my local paper. I found the returning errant cows to the barn was a good use. And all the domestic squabbles. I mistakenly dialed 911 instead of *99 to retrieve voice mail messages and told them it was my mistake. The state police then called and three minutes later a local cop knocked on my back door. Are you okay he asked? DUH. And my respect for law enforcement at all levels continues to decline, spurred mostly by ‘Local Law Enforcement.’

    Reply

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