Demilitarizing Our Police Published on June 14, 2023

Every spring the new recruits for the sheriff’s department participate in drills on the grounds and parking lot of the Franklin County Jail. I live a few blocks from the jail, so it is a familiar sight to see them running and doing calisthenics. The jail is a stately old building that is cinematic (think Shawshank Redemption). In fact, the movie Labor Day with KateWinslet and Josh Brolin was filmed there. I know many people might be nervous about living near the jail, but it has never been an issue for me and my family until recently.

Last month I was walking my dog past the jail when I saw and heard the recruits running through the parking lot with flags as they chanted. As I got closer, I started to clue into the words of their chant which included lyrics like, “I will leave them bruised and bloody” and “I want to kill them.” Each refrain became more violent as the song progressed. My first reaction was concern for all of the families with children nearby that would overhear this onslaught. My next reaction was anger at both the culture of violence and militarization of our police trainees.

After the murder of George Floyd three years ago, many communities began conversations about police reform and defunding the police. Communities began calling for the engagement of social workers and others in calls that don’t require police officers and would be better served by new approaches and expertise. This is beginning to happen in some communities, often due to a shortage of police officers and not budget changes.

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Written by Lora Wondolowski, Peace Development Fund Director of Advancement and Communications

for African American Point of View June Issue

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