This piece was originally published in the December 2020 issue of Policy & Practice magazine.
There’s a growing call to shift funding from policing to social and health services. While there’s value in embracing a more holistic approach to serving and protecting people and communities, could we be missing a larger opportunity?
In a virtual roundtable discussion, child welfare expert Molly Tierney, law enforcement veteran Jody Weis and human capital specialist Jina Braynon talk about today’s challenges and opportunities to make the crucial shift from reaction to prevention.
Read the full article to explore their perspectives on:
Why now is the time to get serious about change.
How we can be more innovative stewards of government resources.
How preventive approaches might look in the "real world."
The role of data and analytics in helping government be more preventive.
Below is an excerpt from the full roundtable discussion.
Why is now the time to get serious about change?
Jody Weis: I’ve never met a cop or an FBI agent – unless they have unique training – who really believes they’re the best resources for handling someone in crisis. Yet they’re often the only ones available, forcing them to deal with these complex situations. Now there’s a push to explore if some functions that police departments do would be better accomplished by someone else – resources who are more qualified and may get better outcomes in some circumstances.
Jina Braynon: Jody is the expert in law enforcement. I come at this from a whole-of-government perspective, and I see this as one of many opportunities for government agencies and offices to work in concert versus working in silos. There are real synergies when they come together – each focused on their core mission and responsibilities – to help people. Plus, when we think about the tax and revenue impacts for governments because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that budgets are going to be reduced. Now more than ever, there’s an imperative to do the best work and achieve the best possible outcomes with the resources and talent we currently have.
Molly Tierney: I agree with everything Jody and Jina have said. I also know that change in this country often comes from groundswell. Right now, there’s a beating drum about the need for change – particularly in the way we are using tools of government in communities where people have low incomes and in communities of color.
The way we’ve been using these tools has not resulted in the outcomes we seek. What we seek is for people to be safer, communities to be calmer, children to be healthier. Yet that’s not what we’ve achieved. Instead, we’ve achieved an overrepresentation of these community members in terms of arrests, children in foster care and dependency on public assistance.
In many cases, we’ve employed the tools of government in an attempt to force people to change their behavior. What we have the chance to start doing instead is to use the resources of government to invite people into opportunity – to invite them to choose as to their best interest. In my repeated experience, every human acts in their own best interest, and in the presence of opportunity, they respond appropriately.