So, do you want to defund the police or defend the police? As all of us know, but only some will admit, “defund” is a misleading term — like massively misleading. “Defund” doesn’t actually mean what the word clearly denotes, which would be “removing all funding.” Not many people are in favor of removing all funding from our police department. Hey, there’s something the vast majority of us can actually agree on! How about that?

Which makes one wonder why the word “defund” was chosen, since those who espouse it mean something other than “defund.” Defunding the police doesn’t exactly accentuate the positive, as the old Johnny Mercer song goes. Police departments nationwide need a lot of improvements and have a lot to answer for, but emphasizing the negative won’t attract a lot of allies. Then again, accentuating the positive, if it only means “defending a bad situation,” is just a reverse negative. 

It reminds me of the former quibble over the labels “disabled” and “differently abled.” Differently abled accentuates the positive, eliminates the negative.

So, do you want to “defund” the police or “differently fund” them? “Defund” connotes punishment, deprivation. “Differently fund” suggests reforming, reinventing, and improving police departments, something the police themselves might welcome (since we ask them to do too much), and giving them help might actually make their jobs — and themselves — more humane.

“Defend” is just as misleading as “defund.” Are we really defending the police if we merely, mindlessly defend a status quo that sucks (even according to the police)? Most of us support our police because they have tough jobs, which they mostly do pretty well, but not always. 

So, do you want to “support” or “differently support” our police?

Actually, we have three options: 

1) Defund — or differently fund — the police

2) Defend — or differently defend — the police or,

3) Differently fund and differently defend the police?

We are, to our detriment, a highly binary society, still mired in an “either/or” approach to life. “You’re either with us or against us” is inherently negative. We need to take a “both/and” approach to our problems. We can, in fact, differently enable police by reinventing policing, which is inherently positive.

We can make policing better by making it better for everyone — in particular unarmed Black men and women. But also for police officers, who obviously are under way too much pressure and melting down dramatically — and homicidally — and doing completely inexplicable and inhumane things under all that pressure. 

Personally, as the father of a cop, I don’t believe most police officers want these things to keep happening, but here’s the thing: They do keep happening. Meltdown cops are the canaries in the mine shaft. They are telling us something is terribly wrong, not just with isolated cops, but with the system itself. That system needs to be thoroughly re-examined, repaired, reformed and reinvented.

In other words, we want our police to be “differently abled.”

But that isn’t the option offered in the referendum on the ballot this April. That’s because it’s not really a referendum. It’s a “connivance.” It asks, with misleading simplicity, if we want to “defund the police.” The brainiacs who came up with this connivance are the flip side of the brainiacs who came up with “defund the police,” which, as I have said before, is the worst slogan in the history of slogans, lending credence to the old adage that liberals are their own worst enemy. On the other hand, conservatives clearly are also their own worst enemy, as indicated by this referendum.

The word “unconstructive” springs to mind.

That leaves voters with an unappealing range of options:

1) Ignore the connivance, as it so richly deserves. If voters largely refrain from voting on it and the referendum wins with a massive majority of the paltry few, it will be discredited.

2) Vote to “defund” even though that’s not what you truly believe or because you know what it really means and you want to see the department differently funded and improved.

3) Vote No because you dislike the word “defund,” which will only allow those who want to keep the status quo to do their little end zone dance and claim that everything is just hunky-dory and no changes are needed. Which was no doubt the goal of the connivance in the first place. 

But there is another option: Put a similarly nonbinding referendum on the 2022 midterm election ballot, when turnout may be higher, which asks the un-conniving question: 

Shall we, as a community, in partnership with the police department, explore ways to reform and reinvent policing that roots out systemic racism where it exists; improves training to make law enforcement more efficient, effective, equitable and humane; and gives police greater access to resources that benefit both officers and the people with whom they come in contact?

Maybe others can improve on that wording. But do me one favor.

Whatever you do, don’t use the word “defund.”

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