Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Middlebury PD can serve as a model for policing

Some weeks ago I wrote a letter supporting our Middlebury Police Department and suggesting that defunded police could invite militia completely beyond public control to take over our streets. Subsequent letters by others to the Addison Independent documented troubling encounters with police that suggest racial profiling. Such activity needs to be and can be reined in. However, it is not an adequate reason to defund our police any more than racism in local schools is an argument to defund our schools.
Since my previous letter, my worst fears have materialized as federal shock troops, a highly militarized and notoriously heavy handed branch of our “border control agency,” working without local support or control, have occupied cities such as Portland. These cities are becoming battle grounds. Minneapolis, which is defunding its police department, is having its streets and neighborhoods occupied by urban citizens’ militias. Militias from the left and right are having “confrontations,” which many on both extremes cynically seek in the belief that further violence will support their agendas seeking revolution. It is only a matter of time before open urban conflict breaks out across the nation, if we do not act constructively and creatively now.
The growing chaos in our urban streets is a dream come true for an authoritarian president who has turned this turmoil into political theatre and the leading edge of his presidential campaign propaganda. Nothing will flip the middle class from being supporters of Black Lives Matter to becoming reluctant Trump voters like the perception of widespread civil unrest and a sufficient dose of media amplified reality to make that perception seem well grounded. This is precisely how the Nazis came to power in Germany. They rejoiced when leftist groups fought back against brown shirts and escalated violence in streets.
In my previous letter I suggested that the Middlebury police be used as a model rather than defunded. I repeat the suggestion, acknowledging that our police, like any public institution, is not perfect. My suggestion: Our state legislature should fund a social intervention model, in Middlebury, combining closer coordination of traditional policing activity and social service and mental health agencies. I have worked with people representing both sides in Middlebury and know that they are caring individuals capable of carrying this off. Middlebury is small enough to allow a pilot project without massive expenditure. We also exhibit enough of the social problems afflicting the nation that an experiment would not be avoiding difficult issues and challenges. 
So much that is good in this nation, civil unions, a localvore movement, 350.org, and the Sanders campaign, have roots in Vermont. Let’s sow more seeds of problem solving.
We still have time to rescue our nation’s police departments and our other critical social institutions before their foundations are hopelessly eroded. But time is running out.
Randy Kritkausky
Whiting and Middlebury

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