The other day I was talking with an old friend who works in the Court Service Unit for the Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. She runs a great program for girls that she founded almost 20 years ago called Space of Her Own that you can find at www.spaceofherown.org. Take a look at the outcomes from the work being done there for young girls who just need a little help. We are trying to find the funding to start a similar program here.
As we talked, we began comparing notes of what is going well where each of us lives. One area where Alexandria is having the same problem as we are is in keeping police officers. While Alexandria is much larger and wealthier than Cambridge or other communities on the Eastern Shore, they were losing police officers just as we are.
One solution that a town in Virginia has found in addition to higher pay is to provide housing for some of its officers as part of their compensation. All of the jurisdictions on the Eastern Shore must have houses that have come to them because of tax sales. Which of them might be able to be fixed up at a low cost and used as another incentive to help encourage our officers to stay and be an even more important part of our communities?
The other interesting discussion we had was about the unused monies that are in the police budgets in those communities where the number of police officers has gone down. How might those monies be used in short term summer projects or even longer-term pilot projects to help the police and the community in reducing crime and supporting community.
Now this is not about “Defunding the Police”. It is about using those resources that are not being used now to help the remaining police officers by helping to reduce the considerable workload to which they are being called upon to respond. For instance could there be a summer program to engage some of the youth in doing something productive in the community? Could there be administrative work at the police department that needs to be done but has not been done because of staff shortages? Could there be an intern program for older teens to introduce them to the idea of becoming a police officer that could be run by a retired police officer as a way to recruit future community police officers? What ideas might you have for needs in your community that could be addressed through the effective use of these funds during the upcoming summer?
For Pilot programs, could a social worker be hired to be a resource in the community to help transport children from home to existing programs in the community and learn from them what their challenges are? Or to a summer school program that a young student needs to catch up on his or her education, when she misses the bus? As mentioned above, what do you see as needs in your community that might benefit, at least for the summer, from hiring a teacher or two or a retired social worker who would welcome the chance to make some extra money over the summer?
The answer is not to leave the money in the police department budget for spending sometime in the future. The need is now in communities for resources to be made available for children that will help them on their road to success.
Thanks for reading. Please be in touch.
Judge Rideout is the former Chief Judge of the Alexandria, VA Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (1989-2004). From 2004 until the present he has consulted in different states to support their efforts to improve their child welfare systems. From 2016 to early 2021, he was the Ward 1 Commissioner on the Cambridge City Council. Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for improving the lives of children in his and other communities. He can be reached at email@example.com