The most important responsibility of government and leaders is public safety. Unfortunately, the status of public safety and policing in the U.S. today is a dangerous mess. The only solution is to rethink, redefine and reconstruct our society’s safety solutions. This issue is as complex as it is important, so it’s necessary to begin by looking at both specific reforms and the entire safety structure. When safety and community cooperation aren’t working, and tensions between policing and citizens are at the boiling point, you need to start from scratch.

There are two solutions that need to be implemented simultaneously, but developed on separate tracks. The first is to address the obvious list of policing reforms that are needed, and these include (but aren’t limited to): police cameras, no-knock arrests, police immunity, federal registry of police misconduct, use-of-force, mass incarceration, aggressive policing, civilian oversight and, most essential, reform or eliminate all police unions that are determined to prevent reform.

The second track is recreating a safety structure designed to meet today’s and tomorrow’s myriad needs. This requires expertise in social work, health and drug medical issues, dealing with dangerous criminals, psychiatric and emotional cases, homelessness, gang warfare, and community relations and communication. Today, police are in an impossible position because they are asked to confront every social problem — and no one profession is capable of doing that. Given the magnitude of this challenge, a good management consultant might suggest an organization chart with a Safety Commissioner on top as CEO/COO, to whom a series of Department Chiefs and staff report (such as Police Chief, Medical Chief, Social Work Chief, Psychiatric Chief, Communications and Community Relations Chief, and so on). Expertise, division of labor, specialization, cross discipline coordination and more effective recruiting would all enable this kind of professional reorganization to serve and protect their entire community in a much more cost-effective way — than buying more military equipment.

Only forward looking and creative solutions will provide real safety for our communities and our nation.

Roger C. Kostmayer

Key West