Many of us have been hearing the news of a Waterloo Region church openly defying provincial lockdown rules. And, appropriately, many of us are infuriated by both the actions of those choosing to attend and also the lack of enforcement by police. I am one of those people angered by this situation.
However, I am also left uncertain about the best course of action in this situation. My first reaction is to call for heavier police enforcement (which may very well be the most appropriate and needed action here). However, as someone who supports calls to reallocate police funding, I am left with a sense of unease about the whole situation.
You see, one of the many reasons that I support reallocation is that I have heard many stories about communities that are over-surveilled and over-policed. I don't think anyone is surprised to know that those communities tend to be racialized, and experience higher rates of poverty and homelessness. Therefore, I think there's value in reducing police funding for these activities.
Of course, what we have in this case of the local church, seems to be the exact opposite of that. We have a majority (all?) white church population openly (and proudly) defying lockdown rules. Rules that are meant to keep us all safe. And we know that (again) the populations most impacted by COVID are those living in poverty, experiencing homelessness, and/or are racialized. And yet, where is the enforcement in this situation?
Those clear discrepancies in responses is one of the main reasons I am supportive of calls to reallocate funding from policing to more upstream services. Expecting police to be the first and only ones to respond to any and all issues in the community, while giving them both powers of arrest and use of force, while also providing them with 'discretion' to use these tools as they see fit, is clearly problematic, and too often harmful.
While I am not positive of the best course of action in this particular situation, I think it does highlight the problems of one group (police) holding so much power and discretion when we know that systemic racism impacts those decisions. We need to do better and I think reallocation is a strong tool to help us improve.