Op-Ed in the Courier Journal by Greg Tichenor and Jillian Pearsall, Louisville SURJ members
LMPD Chief Shields’ call for an internal JCPS police force to “tackle” the city’s youth violence problem is misinformed. While the violence that took place in the morning of Sept. 22 is horrific, calling for more policing is an example of the short-sighted, reactionary mindset that has driven the new Jim Crow era for over fifty years in the form of mass incarceration. Police in our schools creates a collective us-versus-them mentality that is a major driver of the school-to-prison pipeline targeting students of color in particular, as well as students who are disabled, poor, LGBTQ or immigrant. This does not move us any closer to our children actually being safe.
We saw the same kind of reactionary thinking after the Marshall county shooting. Kentucky state legislators are trying to mandate police in every school in the name of safety. However, they are not hearing from many in the community who are saying the presence of police makes them uncomfortable.
Our youth have been traumatized by the police in many instances and putting armed uniformed guards will be a daily trigger and source of anxiety for too many of our students. Schools contracting with local police forces or having their own internal police do not keep children, teachers or school staff safe. In fact, we know that the presence of police in schools will only, in the future, target and marginalize those students on the margins who need the most support.
Policing is a Band-Aid to help our community feel like it is doing something to address the problem of gun violence. It is in effect only exacerbating the problem by incarcerating our children. There is definitely a crisis in the village, but draconian measures are not going to move us forward. The solution must be centered in healing and not inflicting more pain.
Counseling is what our students need more of, not police. We have to unpack the trauma that is walking through our school doors that may very well be at an all-time high right now. The same is true for the larger Louisville community. We have to invest in programs that build futures and provide healing, especially in our most vulnerable areas of high poverty and inadequate resources.