Letter: Let’s work for meaningful police reform

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In an online article, which was posted to Mountain Xpress [on June 5], Chuck Edwards, my GOP opponent in the Nov. 3 election, announced his unbridled support for the Asheville Police Department and seemingly gave their attack on a medical aid station his blessing [“Sen. Chuck Edwards Accuses Press of ‘Monday Morning Quarterbacking’ on Police Response to Protests”].

That action, which was documented on video, garnered international attention and has been used as yet another example of an “out of control” police force.

Under the bright light of scrutiny, Esther Manheimer, the mayor of Asheville, and the city’s police chief, David Zack, have apologized and promised that changes will be made.

Edwards’ statement — which included a verbal attack on a young reporter — was both unfortunate and predictable, and ignores the larger social movement that is taking place in America right now. It is very easy and politically expedient to simply say that one supports the police. However, that response ignores the need for justice in our communities of color and is, at the same time, fundamentally unfair to law enforcement personnel, who have arguably one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

Over the last 40 years, law enforcement has increasingly been asked to take on a great many of America’s social ills: homelessness, untreated mental illness, domestic violence, substance abuse. It’s abundantly clear that these are impossible burdens for municipal police forces. Many communities across the country (places like Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Durham, Nashville and Dallas) are beginning to realize this and are advocating for a reallocation of funding toward social services. They would divert money away from overwhelmed police departments and toward schools, hospitals, drug rehabilitation, mental health services, housing and food banks — things that are known to improve public health and safety. This kind of reprioritization would also provide a tremendous amount of relief for our law enforcement professionals, who are ill-equipped and outside of their mission statements when asked to deal with things like homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse.

It is time to examine how to support our police forces by giving them the right tools they need to protect the public, which is their primary mission. We must bear in mind that finding the best ways to support our men and women in blue may mean taking a creative approach that reduces their responsibilities while moving social issues toward social workers.

It’s a time for creative thinking, thoughtful approaches and the political will to work for justice and equity. Let’s keep an open mind and work toward a multilayered solution that benefits all of our communities through meaningful reform and doesn’t pander to the status quo.

— Brian Caskey
Councilman, Mills River
Candidate, N.C. Senate District 48

Editor’s note: Sen. Edwards expanded on the issue via a pair of posts on his Facebook page at avl.mx/7b0.


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