HAVING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT makes all the difference. You don’t take a butter knife to a gun fight. And you shouldn’t take a gun, when a butter knife will do.
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the hands of police, and the subsequent heavy-handed police response to protesters, cities across North America, including some in Canada, are looking at reducing (defunding) police budgets in favor of spending on other services.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian echoed others on council by stating reducing police funding would reduce police response times.
It was an opportunity lost by City Council to press for meaningful changes in policing and non-policing services in Kamloops.
Kamloops’ Car 40 is an example of a different type of policing. The team of one police officer and one Interior Health psychiatric nurse respond together to mental health calls. It’s a great program, where the right tool, health care, is deployed to the frontlines. The only problem is, is that there is only one Car 40 team in Kamloops. There is no coverage for evenings or weekends.
The City of Kamloops has been willing for years to fund a second police officer for Car 40, but Interior Health hasn’t been willing to fund the nursing position. It’s time for City of Kamloops to turn up the heat and get the second Car 40 for Kamloops. More body cameras won’t result in an expanded Car 40 program.
While the budget for policing has steadily gone up in Kamloops, there are other services that have fallen by the wayside. Last fall, the Kamloops YMCA announced major budget shortfalls for programs that serve women and children of domestic abuse. The YMCA cut staff from their women’s shelter, and their program that works with children who witness abuse was closed.
Sending police to domestic violence incidents is one solution. But another solution is having places women and their children can escape the violence in the first place. More body cameras won’t allow the YMCA to hire more staff to serve more women and children.
The City of Kamloops is a major funder of YMCA programs. The City could have ensured additional funding was available so that the YMCA didn’t have to slash services for women and children. Choosing to expand policing, while services for women and children experience violence are reduced and closed, is choosing the gun over the butter knife.
Defunding police is not about having less safety in the city. It is about having the right tools for the job. Whether mental health or domestic violence, racialized violence or substance abuse, policing is not the only, or often not the best solution.
If the City of Kamloops council chooses to fund body cameras, but doesn’t increase funding for non-policing services, then they will be choosing guns over butter knives. Here’s hoping non-policing services funding is increased as generously as well.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.