Alternative Ideas to Defunding The Police

        Nowadays when I look at social media all I see are strong opinions and ideas, and to be honest it scares me. The reason why it scares me is because when an idea gets traction, all other possible solutions to the problems we face are barely ever shown or discussed. So I wanted to present some of my ideas about the motion to defund the police in the city of Toronto. 

        Being raised in Toronto, I've learned to accept the good with the bad like any city. Even as a child I had run-ins with the authorities which made me feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I have also seen the good that having a strong police system brings. Right now you must be thinking what good could the Toronto police possibly be doing. Well, I wanted to share with you the Youth in Policing initiative. It's an initiative run by the Toronto police service to help bring cops closer to the communities they protect. This initiative is a program that employs students from grades 9-12 in a be a cop for a day type program, but instead it's for the entire summer or everyday afterschool. These students get to experience different aspects of the Toronto police force, everything from the traffic duties to the canine squad. Such a program employs hundreds of Toronto students every year and gives them the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and make a strong impact in their community. So I enrolled back in the summer of 2015 and ended up working at a courthouse, this was where I saw a cop's compassion and kindness. But most of all I learned that with the bad comes a lot of good.  Also to add, when applying for this program you had to tell them your address. Why? Well they made sure that they gave first priority to those living in neighborhood improvement areas. This essentially means that they hired students that really needed jobs, students that come from a background of poverty, and youth who are naturally more at risk due to the location that they live in. Giving these such youth a job and motivating them to succeed is a great service in my opinion to the city of Toronto.  (Youth in policing info here)

        Cutting the Toronto police’s budget may be a fix to the problems we face right now. Even so we need to ask ourselves, at what cost? Cutting the budget means programs like youth in policing are defunded as well. It also means that specialized units like the canine units and swat will face downsizing. Also what about having to shut down local stations in certain areas making the cop to person ratio even bigger, isn’t that a possibility when running on a budget that just lost several million dollars.     

        There are alternatives everyone, and these existed far before defunding ever became an issue. To start off, community policing, which is where you have cops that work in a particular community and their role is to serve the community in handling policing matters. The ideal is to have at least a few cops in each community that know it well and where connections with the community is a must. They show up to community events and help brighten the community and make it feel safer. Then when a problem emerges, like the unlawful arrest of someone, you have someone in your community to turn to who is a cop that can advocate on your behalf and investigate the situation. These cops are perfect to call in to help deal with school issues, give safety talks, and just overall make the community feel safer. They can also be trained accordingly in order to ensure fairness and proper justice above all else to everyone they serve. Such a program takes money and support, and maybe the police budget can be relocated to help fund programs like these. 

        Another idea is to hire cops that live in their working district. So many cops commute to work everyday from places that are far away from where they work and this sickens me. How would a cop know the struggles that the people they serve and protect face, when they refuse to live in the same neighborhood as these people. This naturally brings in bias and unfairness to everything these cops do because at the end of the day it's not their neighborhood. So I say make it mandatory that cops need to work in the district they live in! This would provide so many benefits to both the community and the cop. The cop can go to their community much more easily to help gather information on problems. Also cops can begin to build networks much more easily and allow for more people to come forward about crime.  People might say what about the safety and privacy of cops, well those can still be safeguarded using a variety of methods. 

        Another idea I wanted to talk about was making the process to become a cop a 4 year degree. This was suggested to me by a friend. When they pitched this they said, “I have to go to 8 years of school just to become a lawyer, in order to make sure I understand law. But someone who enforces the law can become a cop in less than 3 years. Make a 4 year degree mandatory to become an officer. We have 4 year policing programs run by laurier and other universities so it's not like we need to do anything extra. Details of this degree can be found (here). Just make it mandatory to have one of these degrees.    

        Lastly I wanted to talk about the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). Here's a bit about them directly from their site, “(They are) responsible for receiving, managing and overseeing all public complaints about municipal, regional and provincial police in Ontario. As an independent civilian oversight agency, (they) make sure that public complaints about police are dealt with in a manner that is transparent, effective and fair to both the public and the police.” (more information).  Well many people don’t know they have such a department available to them. We give a billion dollars to the Toronto police service but less than 12 million to these guys. Shocking right. The OIPRD is the tool us normal folk can use to combat unfair and unethical policing. They deserve more money and more support! (OIPRD budget here)

        Overall I beg you not to get swept up in the one solution that is prevalent because of social media, but to explore all possible solutions and make sure you pick the best one or combination of them and promote that.