To the editor:
While respecting our police and sheriff’s officers whose jobs present myriad challenges in working with unhappy, difficult or just downright mean people, I think an opportunity is being missed. While going in and out of LINK one day, I chatted with a genial, older man of color, who was sitting patiently for lunch. As I left, a young Lawrence police officer arrived, stalked up, crisply dressed, aggressive and loaded with tools of authority. Without introduction or pleasantry common to this region he demanded information from the older man, received only a quiet answer and marched off, spine straight, radiating authority.
The young policeman was properly within the rules, but all I could think was that a huge opportunity had been missed. How much more efficient this bit of police work could have been if the officer and the LINK guest knew and respected each other. How helpful it would be if the police and the sheriff could send their staff to eat and chat with the LINK and shelter clients, getting to understand them.
LINK and community shelter clients are probably more likely than the majority of the comfortable population in this city and county to suffer violence. Many are very vulnerable due to disability or age. “Wasting” a few officers’ time to learn to communicate with LINK and shelter clients probably would be an extremely efficient use of resources.