March Madness: Shoes, Spare Tires and the Police

Why did I get rid of these ankle boots? (Location: Bangkok Thailand)

OK, who did it? I know someone else did it besides me. Did you happen to get rid of something during the “COVID Purge,”  you now realize you kind of, sort of need? Ankle boots! I had 5 minutes left before I needed to leave and I remembered, my footwear of choice, the shoes that went with the outfit I was wearing were tossed into the donate pile. Six months into lockdown with no end in sight, I failed to think about the times in which these were the only shoe that would work. Alas with no time to change clothes, I begrudgingly put on a pair of shoes that were out of place with my ensemble. Context is everything. When there was no going out, shoes that were remotely uncomfortable (except for my stilettos) got tossed. In normal times, my criteria is, are these shoes wearable1? I wasn’t considering the problem the shoes solved only the problem they caused. In hindsight, I made a poor choice that felt great at the time.

Wednesday morning, I heard a commotion that prompted me to look out my 7th floor window. There was a repairman was running hard and desperately pleading “stop him, stop him.” While pedestrians looked confused, I could see about 20 yards ahead of him, a guy on a bike zipping around people and cars. I watched for 3 solid blocks, the running, the yelling, and the confused looks of pedestrians until they both turned a corner.   While the streets are full of people, theft is swift and rampant. Thursday’s NY Times featured an article on Oakland. The piece highlighted the break-ins and ransacking of several businesses in my neighborhood and the failure of police to show up. Friday, while waiting for a train, I spotted a man headed towards us that didn’t look quite right, and two law enforcement officers appeared, calmly instructing him to leave and following/escorting him away from the trains.

Graffiti on Oakland Police Station at 7th & Broadway
…My neighborhood is 3rd & Broadway (4 blocks down)

It’s easy to fall prey to a tag line, a catch phrase, a thought with no regard for context. When a problem caused is isolated from a problem solved, a dystopian kind of March Madness follows. It’s like looking at expenses and eliminating items based on cost alone without context. Sure I could save $600/month – eliminate my cell phone, internet provider and electricity. The issue of one problem solved and another caused is obvious. Many things in life are not. At the height of social unrest almost 2 years ago, I photographed some of the murals. I had angst around disparagement against the police and wrote about it over the years. Don’t get it twisted. The police involved with George Floyd, an abomination. The way in which Ahmaud Arbery was handled, appalling. More recently, Lauren Smith Fields  and Brenda Rawls, awful. But, F’ the police is not the answer. Defund the police, no bruh. Policing needs reform, it needs reimagining, policing needs partnering with the community. This is an instance of problems caused (racial profiling, failure to follow procedures, etc.) versus problem solved. But ACAB (all cops are bad) no. 

Policing has systemic problems no doubt. Think of older structures. The garages doors don’t open enough for some SUVs, built in entertainment centers won’t hold large screen TVs, the space may not be set up to accommodate high speed internet. The problems are systematic and will not miraculously change without intervention. So, those structures are renovated when the overall “bones” are good. The design point of the trunk of my car is to hold two golf bags. There is even a diagram to show how to place them. I could have more trunk space if I removed the spare tire. An under appreciated item, until you need it.

Defund as a tagline is senseless, but an opening to have a discussion. What does “defund” mean? Oakland’s city council last year voted to “defund” the police and “redirect” funds to social services. The result has been understaffed police and led to a vote of city council to “refund” the police in December of 2021. It’s a complex problem and a question of what works and what doesn’t. What’s clear, something is broken when a brazen broad daylight theft in a heavily populated area occurs 4 blocks from the police station. One of the businesses in the building waited 6 hours in their safe room for the police after an armed robbery. As highlighted in the NY Times, there are times when the police don’t show up at all.

Are private security firms the answer or is this just another highlight of economic disparities?When are the times you expect a police presence? What would happen if this disappeared? This week, consider two things, the ill effect of considering a a problem caused without the context of a problem solved and policing.

1Wearable means, if you don’t have to walk far or stand long, the shoe is wearable.

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