No police departments should be defunded, especially the Oak Park and River Forest police. There are needs in our society that can only be addressed by the police. As a social worker I have been in situations where the police were vital to everyone’s safety.
The Oak Park police have been trained by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) in how to sensitively handle mental health and other disruptive matters.
People I know who had to have the River Forest or the Oak Park police answer their calls for assistance have said that the police handled the situations very well and sensitively.
I realize there are issues with some police departments and that some of these departments need to be revamped. There always needs to be zero tolerance for excessive force and, of course, wrongful murder of citizens.
All police departments need to have NAMI training, anti-racist training, and training to abandon excessive force. These trainings need to be repeated on a regular basis. Police who cannot maintain the standards of these trainings need to be identified by their superiors and removed from contact with the community.
We need many more mental health services available in our communities, including psychiatric treatment, psychological and social work therapy, as well as mental health clinics.
Most of all, we need to fund and develop supported housing for people with a mental health issue and/or a disability. It is the most effective and least costly way to sustain a safe and healthy environment for people with a mental health or other disability. This will reduce some of the burden that police encounter considering that one-third of our jail space is populated by people who have a mental illness. These people are inappropriately housed because there is no other place for them to go.
Let us keep our police departments funded, give them appropriate and frequent training as well as adding the other services needed in our community so we are not asking our police to be all things to all people.
Joan Ward Greene MSW, CSW