Despite chain emails from outside groups suggesting all communities “defund” law enforcement, our community has remained united in recognizing high-quality law enforcement is a necessary component to civilized society. Sadly, the radical movement to defund law enforcement is gaining traction in other areas where critical thinking is absent. The emails calling for defunding come without a scintilla of evidence that our local law enforcement has committed grievous racially inspired errors. Cooler heads have prevailed; the Kalispell City Council and our community – regardless of political party affiliation – remain united in support of our law enforcement.
The hypocrisy lost in the chaos is those calling for defunding paint all of law enforcement with the same broad brush that racists paint those of color. Neither action has value. It is, however, healthy for tough questions to be asked of our law enforcement agencies to ensure the needs of our community are being met impartially. Some have questioned the need for armed law enforcement in seemingly non-violent situations like barking dogs, speeding, mental health calls, etc. One theory has it that when cops show up armed, they are more likely to use the firearm, or the situation automatically escalates when a sidearm is present. The reason law enforcement must be armed is they have no idea what they will encounter when they show up to a scene. When law enforcement is summoned, it is because the situation cannot be resolved without help. Non-violent calls for police assistance can escalate to violent calls unpredictably. So, while a barking dog doesn’t seem like an issue requiring armed presence by the police, the presence of law enforcement on the dog owner’s property may elicit a violent response by the owner. Most of these encounters resolve without issue or use of force, but arming police is necessary for unknown and unpredictable human behavior. Recent attacks against law enforcement where officers were shot at by suspects underscore the need for continued vigilance and arming of law enforcement.
Our society continues to ask more and more of law enforcement. During this time of evaluating our policing needs, we should also ask: Are we placing too many societal issues at the feet of law enforcement to resolve? Should neighbors work harder at being neighborly? Should we adequately fund mental health services so that mental health crises are responded to by mental health professionals versus cops? Caving to chaos will never create a better community, but employing level-headed critical thinking will. An assault on law enforcement is an assault on our community and its safety. We have set the example for other states to follow: Ask tough questions while remaining supportive of the men and women who devote their professional lives to protecting us.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.