Millennial Life: We Exist Within the System
It's really easy to complain on Facebook and offer no solutions. It's a touch harder to speak directly to the city council and air your grievances. It's harder still to go to the town hall filled with armed police to point fingers and explain that your tax dollars pay for their salary.
It was the city's second police town hall. As I settled in to watch the interim chief and his staff present, I didn't see any of those who two days earlier filled the room to complain about crime sitting in the gallery.
There's been a huge uptick in crime in our city, driven by fentanyl and poverty, according to the police. It's similar to what I heard at a community meeting when an officer wearily explained that most things came back to drugs, and they weren't sure exactly how to curb it.
At the same meeting, the officer gained my respect after a neighborhood resident mentioned that they would see people walking back and forth around the park, which scared them. The officer said, "That's their right, though," and then said, "But it's still your calls that let us know about things that help us take action."
Back at the town hall, the police reported on strategies for different areas and different methods to narrow down hot spots of crime, mainly through the aid of residents who would alert them to situations. It came with success: The previous month, they had seen their first decrease in crime in five years. It wasn't a neat solution like you'd get in a sitcom, but the police tried to show that they were working. But as I walked out, I still thought that maybe the police weren't the entire answer to our society's cracks.
A fellow resident asked me about the number of people killed by the police in the last few years, another awful track record. I told him that, simply, it makes me feel less safe and worry more about my loved ones, particularly my native-German-speaking mother who, when excited or agitated, reverts to speaking German.
In 2022, a Spanish-speaking grandmother was shot by one of our police. She had, according to her family, who made the mental health call, dementia. She held two knives as an officer arrived at the home and yelled in English at her. Forty seconds later, he shot her.
That could have been my mom, and I could have stood in my driveway, begging the officer not to shoot her.
Unlike some, I think the police play a role in our society, but what that looks like must change. What I gained from Mariame Kaba's "We Do This 'Til We Free Us" was the question: Why are cops the only choice we have as a "solution" to violence from others? And are they the right solution for moments where there is no violence and the crisis is mental anguish from mental illness?
Our city is trying to change. We have a new program that engages a mobile crisis unit that embeds itself into emergency calls, mainly when they know the call is about a mental health crisis. While it may have been too late for one family grieving their grandmother, it's a start at looking at how the future might be different for not just the community but those who have sworn to protect it.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at email@example.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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