Tuesday, October 19, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on September 22nd, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 30

Wild words


Is the world too touchy-feely these days? Do we need to go back to the days of gunslingers and fights in the street? 

At least one man in Santa Maria thinks so! And he told everyone who attended what would normally have been a pretty benign meeting about the Santa Maria Police Department’s goals for 2022-24. But, politics made it exciting! 

Thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Blue Lives Matter response, conversations about responding to the community’s mental health service needs are dripping with identity politics—as illustrated by one dude who attended the Sept. 20 meeting where SMPD Police Chief Marc Schneider spoke about one of the department’s big goals: to enhance the mental health services it provides. 

“We need to get back to basics. We can’t even lock people up anymore,” the cowpoke said, referring to what I’m assuming are the laws California passed in response to a court order to reduce overcrowding in the state’s prisons. “It’s sad that police officers can’t even be police officers because of all this touchy-feely stuff. Let’s get back to the Old West, and treat people like they should be treated.”

Yeah! Kill people if they get out of line—street shootouts that everyone can watch, sheriff’s posses rounding up dudes, public hangings, and fewer law enforcement officers! 

The Old West? Really? What century are you referring to, sir? Like, pre-California becoming a state? Post-Spanish land grant California? During the Gold Rush, where state officials paid vigilantes to kill Native Americans? What exactly?

And, don’t take this the wrong way my oddly-nostalgic-for-an-era-you-didn’t-live-in friend, but we should absolutely treat people as they should be treated! I assume that’s exactly what the SMPD is trying to do and why Schneider is trying to address some of the inequities in his department’s response to calls for emergency service. The SMPD wants to implement a “mental health car” program—well, that’s what Schneider called it; most other police departments refer to it as a CAT (community action team)—where an officer teams up with a behavioral health clinician to respond to calls for mental health crises. 

It’s something that just makes so much sense! Trying to understand the situation a person’s in before making decisions that will impact not just their lives, but potentially the lives of bystanders and responding officers, too. If that’s considered “touchy-feely,” than I’m all for it! The dude, though, was not impressed! 

“I find it interesting that everyone here is worried about the touchy-feely part of all this, yet there are so many of us business owners in town that are suffering constant burglaries and thefts,” he commented. 

Meaning what, exactly? Is the SMPD’s desire to respond to mental health crises calls with a mental health professional somehow going to increase thefts? Because I would imagine the opposite is true. 

You, sir, sound confused to me. Somehow conflating the current level of criminal activity—which is on average lower than it was decades ago—with the measures police departments and communities are taking to try to improve everyone’s quality of life. Business owners and police officers included. 

Sometimes, that means learning from history’s failures rather than reverting to them.

The canary could go for a good old fashioned and a card game. Send diatribes to canary@santamariasun.com.

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