Less money should be pumped into the police department and incarceration, and more into social services, says Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The Washington Post says Lanier spoke at a panel yesterday moderated by journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates as part of The Atlantic's “Race and Justice in America” summit. Coates asked Lanier whether she thought police were responsible for too much these days, from following up on minor infractions to sometimes checking up on businesses that are violating the law. She said the public would be better served if police weren't always the ones responding, for instance, in all cases that involved mental health emergencies.
“Policing has become the drive-thru 24 hours McDonald's of services,” she said. “When there are not other resources, it's the police who handle it. “We are the only service available 24 hours,” she said. Ronald Davis, the director of community-oriented policing services for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Virginia Matias, a police officer in Camden County, N.J., also participated in the panel. Lanier said police will sometimes follow up with businesses that are illegally selling single cigarettes. In cases like that, Lanier said, it doesn't make sense for officials to have guns. “We really have to look at laws and enforcement, and enforcement versus regulation in some cases,” she said. “You don't need a badge and gun to regulate.”