Recently, 50 Canadian physicians signed a petition calling to defund the police. This was deeply disturbing to many physicians. Although these 50 are absolutely entitled to their opinions, there are many with a very different view of this topic who want to be counted as well.
By the nature of their difficult task, police are forced to repeatedly have difficult interactions with people who range from unhappy to homicidal. They have one of the most difficult jobs in modern society.
Police have recently come under intense scrutiny in the media, which has again and again showcased a very small number of cases where police have behaved badly. There is no doubt that police actions are sometimes improper, and occasionally even criminal. But given tens of millions of police interactions in North America yearly, hundreds of thousands of officers, and the dangers police face during interactions, the number of egregious incidents is actually very low.
No one ever suggests #defundmedicine because a physician sexually abuses a patient. Nobody says #defundnursing because a psychopathic nurse kills a number of nursing home patients. It is understood that the actions of one physician should not determine our opinion of all physicians, or one nurse our opinion of all nurses. There is no evidence that police are worse people on average than those of us in healthcare.
Not one of us is against better policing. Not one of us believes that the police should be allowed to act with impunity. Just as for healthcare professionals, they need to be accountable for their actions.
But achieving better policing means proper funding and training. It means having enough officers to properly respond to emergencies. It means properly funding systems that ensure accountability. All of these efforts are damaged, not helped, by defunding.
Police forces in many areas are experiencing a crisis of recruiting. Respecting police so that good people will consider policing as a career is critical. Currently it seems as though they are constantly denigrated, accused of being racist and generally of bad character. When they direct resources at communities where there is statistically the most crime they are accused of being biased. All of this is undoubtedly incredibly frustrating for police management, as well as the officers on the ground. Both the popular press and many on social media seem happy to attack and give less sympathy or benefit of the doubt to police than criminals.
These people put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Many of us who work in emergency rooms or other acute care settings rely on police on a regular basis, see the challenges of their job, admire their work, and consider them to be colleagues in our effort to keep society safe and healthy. We do not see them as enemies. We depend on them as part of our team.
There is indisputable evidence that pulling police out of communities with high crime rates has increased violent death rates for members of those communities. #defundthepolice is misguided and deadly. We would propose that #supportourpolicecolleagues is much more appropriate.
As a physician, I choose to support proper funding, and continued efforts to make policing as good as it can be.
The Physicians Supporting our Police petition to Physicians was written by Chris Milburn and is in the category Politics at GoPetition.