The Greek word for city is “polis” (plural: poleis). For the ancient Greeks, the city and the state were the same thing – you were a citizen of Athens or Sparta or Thebes; the pan-Hellenic identity didn’t start to coalesce until the 5th century B.C .
It’s from polis that we derive the term politics; as well as an assortment of related concepts like metropolitan and cosmopolitan and so forth.
But what if I told you that the words “polite” and “police” are also cognates of polis? It sounds hard to believe, doesn’t it? Especially since you seldom find those words in the same sentence… not nowadays, anyway.
There has been much debate regarding the call to “defund the police”. And most people tend to get it wrong. It has nothing to do with shutting down or closing police departments. No one is advocating that we take such a drastic measure. However, the conservative narrative, never missing an opportunity to frighten people, phrase it as such…
All “defund the police” means is reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality. That’s it!
Let me give you a practical, real world example of that this means. A week ago, having fallen down the rabbit hole of YouTube, I came across this video by a gentleman named Caleb Leverett. He’s a single father involved in a messy divorce who decided to chronicle and share his experiences of trying to work with and through the family court system for the benefit of his children.
Here’s what happened in a nutshell. After spending time with his son and returning him to his ex-wife’s home as per their custody agreement, his son refused to go. The ex-wife called the police – they showed up and did their best to mitigate the dispute.
Ultimately, no one was arrested.
The police, after discerning what was best for the young man, sent him with his father and advised that he notify the relevant authorities. But what I took away from the video is that the police were clearly NOT SUITED to handle this situation. This was a family in crisis and needed the help of professionals trained to defuse and provide on-the-spot counseling – not men with guns.
That’s why “defund the police” makes sense. Police don’t need to spend money to militarise themselves; they don’t need equipment like armoured vehicles.
Do I think money should be spent on extra training – yes. However, at the same time, I don’t want police to be overwhelmed with training just to force them to fill multiple roles. They don’t need to be a jack of all trades, solving all the problems. The police should be one tool in a community’s toolbox. Yes, some situations call for an iron fist. But there are other times when a helping hand is what’s needed.
You know what the irony is… defunding the police i.e. spreading the funds around, will benefit the police themselves. It adds to their effectiveness, it doesn’t take away from it.
So I support defund ’em – it’s time to put the polite back into police.