Unnecessary Risk - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1838747

Unnecessary Risk

This Thanksgiving was a relief for me, as I was finally able to enjoy a holiday with my New England family for the first time in two years. The name “Trump” never came up, and we all understood the value of home COVID tests and took them willingly before Thanksgiving Day.

This year, our conversation focused on the future of policing. My nephew, a police officer, spoke of how his work has changed even in the 10 years since he began in law enforcement. He related some pretty gut-wrenching stories of what has been happening in his quiet, small, suburban precinct, especially involving young people overdosing and a mentally ill man wielding an automatic rifle, which was aimed at fellow police officers.

That discussion and a lot of what I’ve been reading lately leads me to be deeply concerned about what will be the future of policing over the next 10 to 20 years. If we continue our policy in America of neglecting areas of mental health, drug addiction, poverty and the education of disadvantaged children, we will continue to place those in law enforcement and our citizens at unnecessary risk.

Police are not social workers, drug rehabilitation specialists or marriage counselors, and yet nowadays that is largely what is expected of them. It is now apparent that most police academies do not adequately train and prepare their officers in how to handle many of these new job requirements effectively and to de-escalate situations so that no one gets hurt.

It is no wonder that so many policeman are leaving the force or retiring earlier than they would have otherwise. What will become of our society another 10 years from now if we continue this level of attrition? What if the good cops decide they simply can’t take it anymore? Will we be left with too few applicants, or perhaps will those who are selected to serve no longer be “the finest”?

Now is the time to adequately address the very social issues that are placing our citizens and law enforcement at risk and to change the militaristic attitude of police academies, which is outdated and ineffective.

Paula Angelone, Ph.D.

Southampton Village