On Dec. 17, Mark Dalsing asked on this page, “why is the chief of police talking about homeless people?” His answer: “... it is a police issue because we get many calls every year about people who have done nothing but be homeless.”
Should law enforcement officers be getting these calls? Or should they be going to counselors, social workers and nonprofits whose training and mission focus on homelessness?
This is what the stupidly mislabeled “Defund the Police” campaign is trying to ask. Nobody wants to cut police departments’ budgets to the point where criminals control the streets. It is time, though, to ask whether we are expecting too much of police officers, spreading them too thin with our requirement that they not only enforce the laws but also fix all the problems caused by poverty.
Over 40% of Dubuque’s budget went to Public Safety in 2020 — mainly for police/fire protection — and only 4% went to health/social services. Is this the balance we want? Are flashing blue lights, handcuffs, guns and military equipment better at solving problems? Or should we rebalance our priorities to focus on prevention, fixing the inequities that cause homelessness, begging, and other social problems, and on directing troubled people toward services provided by nonprofits like Resources Unite and Fountain of Youth?
Let’s reduce the unreasonable expectations we put on police officers that distract them from their most important work. And let’s learn from the Fountain of Youth to call this effort “eliminating generational poverty” not “defunding the police.”