In Denver, Defunding the Police Resulted in a Better City

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The city of Denver was already planning to limit the scope of the police before the calls for defunding gained momentum the start of this year. Denver accelerated their plans though, and the results are already so promising that other cities should start copying what Denver has done. Instead of sending out armed forces to help people cope with mental issues, the city is sending out mental health workers. This means that the people who need help are getting it, and the police can do something else.

Since its launch June 1, the STAR van has responded to more than 350 calls, replacing police in matters that don’t threaten public safety and are often connected to unmet mental or physical needs. The goal is to connect people who pose no danger with services and resources while freeing up police to respond to other calls. The team, which is not armed, has not called police for backup, Sailon said.

“We’re really trying to create true alternatives to us using police and jails,” said Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations that helped start the program.

Though it had been years in the making, the program launched just four days after protests erupted in Denver calling for transformational changes to policing in response to the death of George Floyd.

“It really kind of proves that we’ve been working for the right thing, and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should,” Cervantes said.

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Defund the Police, Spend Taxes on Better Things

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In my life team I have seen nearly every public service get defunded except the police, meaning people who would otherwise be housed, have mental care, or otherwise not be neglected end up in confrontations with the police. This is not working well for anybody. Yet defunding the police is an idea that people reject.

A website was built this past summer which showcases the absurd amount of money we give to the police throughout North America compared to social services that can actually help people.

The city of Toronto spends just over 25% of taxpayer dollars on funding the police. That’s a cost of $1.13 billion dollars.

This is comparable to the tax dollars spent on public transportation, the library, children services and public health combined.

Toronto is spending just under $3.3 million dollars per day on police services.

Toronto police are present in some—not all—schools in the Toronto Catholic School Board.

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Why the Parkland Shooting can Change the Gun Conversation in the USA

Out of the tragedy of the Parkland school shooting might come some good. You might be sceptical as Americans are used to schools being attacked by gunmen and we’ve heard before that the most recent shooting will change things. Indeed, school shootings are still so common that the Onion runs the same headline every time. Will the reaction to Parkland actually be different though? It looks like it.

FiveThirtyEight has taken a look into why Americans are complacent with students being shot in schools and the American love of guns. They note that people don’t equate gun violence with guns nor understand how better policy could solve America’s gun problem. The good news is that the reaction to the Parkland shooting is different insofar that the conversation around guns and gun control is more direct. The students from Parkland may represent a new movement for finally stopping gun-based violence in the USA. Indeed, it’s remarkable that two weeks after the shooting Americans are still talking about.

Change in America’s love affair with guns is happening. Companies that favoured the NRA are stopping their support and just today a large American sports store made it slightly harder to get guns. Progress is happening!

The characteristics of the Parkland shooting — and the response to it — mean that this incident could be positioned to overcome some of these psychological barriers. Slovic speculated that focusing on restrictions that target the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting, rather than guns as a category, might make it easier for gun owners to psychologically distinguish the gun used in the shooting from the weapons they personally possess. That could create some common ground that leads to banning or at least limiting the AR-15’s use.

The numbing effect of repeated exposure to violence is also enabled by a quick drop-off in media coverage, but the Parkland students’ vivid stories — combined with images, text messages and videos from the attack — could imbue the event with continued urgency and make viewers empathize with survivors in a new way. “Hearing directly from people who have experienced the trauma is understandably very powerful,” said Sandro Galea, a professor of public health at Boston University who studies trauma and firearms.

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More on the FiveThirtyEight podcast.

Flash North Korea for Freedom

Flash Drives For Freedom from Doug Burnett on Vimeo.

The reclusive state of North Korea doesn’t like it when information leaks in or out. The government is propped up by ignorance, fear, and a lack of a viable alternative. They control their population by limiting access to knowledge; North Korea bans free and open internet just like their neighbour China (and ironically as does their opponent the USA). An international organization has been fighting the censorship in North Korea by attaching USB flash drives to balloons and letting them drop randomly in the country. And it’s making a difference.

Believe it or not, USBs are a significant form of sharing information in North Korea. Many citizens have devices with USB ports. So for many years, North Korean defectors have organized efforts to smuggle outside info into North Korea on USB drives to counter Kim Jong-un’s constant propaganda. But these groups were buying USB drives at cost with limited resources. Flash Drives For Freedom is a campaign that travels the world inspiring people to donate their own USB drives. As a collaboration between the Human Rights Foundation, Forum 280, and USB Memory Direct, Flash Drives for Freedom is significantly increasing the capacities of these North Korean defector groups.

Check it out.

Nuclear Weapon Ban Signed at UN

Nuclear weapons are an existential threat to humanity. If they are used in violence it is likely that the planet would enter a period of nuclear winter – meaning that if you don’t die in the initial waves of explosions you’ll die from starvation. Not a good thing to think about.

Thankfully, yesterday 122 members of the United Nations signed a treaty committing them to a ban on nukes. Countries like the USA, France, and other nuke-loving countries didn’t sign it, still it sends a clear message: the rest of the world doesn’t want anybody to use nuclear weapons. The timing of the signing is quite symbolic given what Trump said during his speech at the UN earlier this week.

“The Treaty is an important step towards the universally-held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. It is my hope that it will reinvigorate global efforts to achieve it,” he added, acknowledging the contributions made by civil society and the hibakusha – the atomic bomb survivors.

At the same time, Mr. Guterres, highlighted the difficult road ahead by recalling that there remain some 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence. “We cannot allow these doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children’s future,” he said.

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