The other evening I was walking with a friend through Gastown, one of the neighbourhoods in Vancouver where the wealthy and the unhoused overlap considerably.
We turned a corner and encountered a person, passed out, appearing to have fully collapsed in the middle of the sidewalk. They didn't respond when we called out to them, so we decided to call an ambulance.
As I was on hold (ON HOLD!) to talk to an ambulance dispatcher, a plainclothes police officer arrived. They began a first aid assessment and called it in. Within seconds, a marked police car showed up with two more uniformed officers and an ambulance was on the way.
Once my friend and I left the scene, our conversation circled around policing for a while. Our experience demonstrated how valuable it is to have someone who is physically present in a neighbourhood with the training to step in and save a life.
Right now, those people are police, and if they hadn't been there who knows how much longer I would have sat on hold with the ambulance? But what if we had people trained in life-saving and perhaps community services out and about, ready to happen upon someone in need who weren't also looking for crime? What if we invested in health and safety in the same way we invest in finding criminals?
On a related note, Mennonite Church USA has put together a curriculum for police abolition that is available for free. (One of the main tenets of being a Mennonite is pacifism, so it is actually a direct extension of the church's purposes.)
The curriculum is very American-focused, so if you are American, definitely get in there. Canada is different, but also kind of the same. I would love to see similar resources looking at it from our context.
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