The Case for Banning Militarized Policing in Charlottesville, Va.

Almost 500 people, most of them from Charlottesville have signed this petition:

We urge you to ban from Charlottesville:

(1) military-style or “warrior” training of police by the U.S. military, any foreign military or police, or any private company,

(2) acquisition by police of any weaponry from the U.S. military;

and to require enhanced training and stronger policies for conflict de-escalation, and limited use of force for law enforcement.

 The CBS 19 coverage is here.

The NBC 29 coverage is here.

These steps should be taken to formalize and legally institute these policies no matter how much or how little the Charlottesville police are currently complying with them.

These are important but easy, least-we-can-do, steps toward a better future.

Removing police from Charlottesville schools was also an important step.

Additional steps will be needed as well.

A few weeks back, the National Football League and many media outlets believed flag ceremonies to be more important than protesting police murders of black people, which were at that time referred to as “officer involved deaths.” Activism, not intellectual effort, changed that.

More people can perhaps now see the insanity of putting police into children’s schools.

More people can now, and since the disaster here three years ago, see the counterproductive nature of militarized policing.

Banning militarized policing now so that it cannot arise in the future will make us all safer.

Banning permits for rallies by armed groups threatening violence won’t hurt either.

More could be done. Local activists have also demanded an end to pre-trial detention, and diversion of those funds to programs including the Food Equity program, Region Ten, and the Charlottesville Free Clinic.

In this university town, surely someone can be found to provide the knowledge that has been widely available for many years that tells us that providing human services and the basis for good lives is less financially costly than police and incarceration.

The Charlottesville City Council has in the past urged Congress to move money out of weapons and into human needs. Surely, the city should formally ban accepting any weapons from the U.S. military.

I realize how slowly things can move. Over a year ago, the city divested its operating budget from weapons and fossil fuels and committed to working on the same for its retirement fund. I joined the Retirement Commission and have done everything I could to speed it along, and still it’s barely cleared its collective throat.

But the work of the petition above is achievable in a matter of minutes. The City Council can do it this evening.

Charlottesville, whether it likes it or not, whether it deserves it or not, is a symbol of racist and anti-racist conflict. Statues are coming down everywhere else. Charlottesville has a responsibility to lead on these issues. Banning militarized policing is the least it can do.

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