Guest Columnist

Overcriminalization puts civilians and officers in danger

We, the comfortable majority, must protest and demand decriminalization of non-violent victimless acts into just ticketable events.

A protestor named Tre, who only wanted to be identified as 'Tre Vietnam' approaches Cedar Rapids police officers to talk
A protestor named Tre, who only wanted to be identified as ‘Tre Vietnam’ approaches Cedar Rapids police officers to talk while openly carrying his rifle at the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ protest along 1st Avenue East in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

I have been a military policeman, an infantry officer awarded a medal for valor in Afghanistan, retired as a major in the Judge Advocate General Corps, served in Mount Vernon as a City Council member, and as a prosecutor in Muskogee, Okla. Our democracy was founded for the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Too often when we are angry, scared or just judgmental, we criminalize behaviors that are not real threats to us.

Per the American Bar Association, 75 percent of pretrial detainees in America have been charged with only drug or property crimes. Because we choose the criminalization path, our police confront daily the execution of our policies which place them in conflicts when they arrest our fellow citizens who we have marginalized through our social policies. George Floyd’s death is just the latest example of a long and tragic line of these conflicts.

We asked too much of our police. It is time to protest but protest peacefully and purposefully. We, the comfortable majority, must protest and demand decriminalization of non-violent victimless acts into just ticketable events. We must also deny police the arrest power except for violent crimes, protection of others from imminent harm or with a valid judicial arrest warrant for a felony.

Misdemeanors should be handled administratively. We most stop racism. However, policing is about policy. Our policy has failed, not our police. We can recognize that the horrible trifecta of overcriminalization, laws that treat police differently from citizens and fear by police for their own safety has brought us to burning cities more than the criminal actions of any specific police officer. It is time for us to demand change to this

horrible trifecta, which takes the lives of African Americans from their families.

Without the demand for these policy changes, these protests are the equivalent of lashing the ocean after a storm. It will expend your energy but accomplished nothing and change is needed to governmental policy.

Slaton Anthony lives in Mount Vernon.

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