Reimagine Peace Officers
By: Cate Steel
Many people are debating the merits of defunding the police. This may be expressed more clearly as reimagining community policing. Just a simple change of a word may have a very powerful impact. Imagine changing the term police officer to peace officer.
What if we can reimagine their role in our community? Are some of the duties currently assigned to police officers better suited for social workers, counselors, clergy or community leaders?
What if we are able to work collaboratively to help build stronger community relations? For example, community members could provide an orientation/training period for the peace officer. They could become participants in the neighborhood activities, and evolve into friendly members and role models for the community. We should provide dynamic feedback to achieve constant improvement for peace officers -- employing the manufacturing terms of kaizen.
Peace officers need methods and tools to proactively engage with the community and gain insights for its needs, desires, and sense of well being. Additionally, a representative community relations and oversight board is required for protection, growth and risk management of both the neighborhood and peace officers. These public servants should be afforded improved training, education, counseling and support systems. Their careers involve immense trauma and stress which need to be communicated and processed in a routine manner.
As of June 16, 2020, our governor announced that he is going to improve our policing policies through an executive order. Inclusion of the minority caucus leader should help garner bipartisan support. We need to recognize leadership and courage to take action immediately and strike while the iron is hot.
These initial actions may enable New London County to play a role as the model for Connecticut; making citizens in our towns and cities feel comfortable and safe within and between their communities.
Let’s see how else we could reimagine
- Provide increased youth and recreation funding -- let us rebuild America by building stronger ties within the community and allow kids to learn, fail, and grow on the sports fields, art classrooms, and theater programs, to name a few.
- Provide diversity education and multicultural history within our schools and mandate it as a requirement for all elected officials.
- Provide increased and improved access to voting
What would improved and access to voting look like?
- No excuse absentee voting - especially now to protect voters and encourage participation in an election during a pandemic. Is the issue really that people are afraid of fraudulent ballots, or is it more in line with the goal from the Founding Fathers to limit the participation?
- Automatic voter registration -- this should be easy and a first step toward more participation in democracy.
- Ranked choice voting & all-mail elections (slightly more radical but worthy of consideration)
- Ample polling locations to avoid long lines and travel distances. The recent stories of four hours sitting in line in Georgia primaries is too long.
- Provide state ID’s to those without drivers licenses or passports so that poorer communities and communities of color are not shut out of voting by CT’s voter ID laws.
We must also take into consideration the peace officers and caring for them in a better way. Peace officer’s experience extreme trauma and tragedy routinely.
The recent resignation of the Department of Corrections officer, as reported in the Connecticut Mirror, highlights an opportunity that might take place in this special session that Governor Lamont created in response to the police brutality across the nation.
The nationwide search for a new Director of Corrections should focus on highlighting the shift we can have inside and hopefully outside the correctional institutions. Why not reimagine the correctional institutions to enable inmates to contribute in society?
- They can focus on a cleaner environment, grow local community vegetables, and complete activities that improve our communities.
- We could have dedicated manufacturing centers setup for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and produced by inmates.
Reeducation, training, and reimagining will allow people to contribute towards society. It will help to grow a stronger community and nation. It will also allow for people to make inroads into a new society. Budget shortfalls in Connecticut may be mitigated. It is estimated over $20,000 is spent annually on inmates, and the shortfall at the Department of Corrections was in the millions, as reported by news outlets throughout the State.
It is all connected. The people keeping peace, those in and hopefully soon out of jail -- the fight to have better, stronger, and more resilient communities.
About Cate Steel:
Cate Steel is a a 24 year resident of East Lyme, and her three children went to East Lyme Public Schools. Cate is a Speech Pathologist, Education Administrator. Cate has over 35 years of working with children and families in education and special education. Currently, Cate Steel is the President of Artreach, which is a Norwich-based nonprofit seeking to harness the power of creativity helping those who have battled mental illness. Cate is a former President and longtime member of Niantic Toastmaster's Club. Cate has worked hard throughout her life from instances of having multiple jobs, waiting tables, working as a social worker, and eventually into educational administration after earning her 6th year degree from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Serving to be the next State Representative of the 37th District of East Lyme and Salem would be an ideal next opportunity for Cate to make a positive difference in our community.