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Defund the Popo? That's a big "no-no," yo.

Kids today, amirite? Check this out:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Some may even vote for Kanye for president. Children are now tyrants... and tyrannize their teachers.

See there? THAT"S precisely why we need cops in school, strapped to the gills - to deal with this new breed of child.

The above quote, alas, is not about today's kids. It's attributed to Socrates, who died shortly before Kanye's first album - in 399 BC.

Okay, I made up the part about Kanye, but the rest of that ancient quote is true.

During this summer that never really was, there were marches and protests for and against just about everything, but one of the first was by people demanding that police officers be removed from schools and that money earmarked for cop shops be diverted to social programs. That would, ostensibly, reduce the need for so many cops.

The slogan for that movement, "Defund the Police," was fraught with problems from the jump. It conjured images of police having their budgets slashed to the point that they would have to place telephoning crime victims on hold, prioritize which crimes they'd respond to or borrow money for cab fare to get to the scene of a burglary in progress.

Many people who might have been sympathetic to their message - and who in their right mind could oppose more mental health experts and social workers in schools? - automatically tuned out the protesters.

"Must be a bunch of anarchists," they sniffed.

In June, when kids still attended schools, more than 3,000 students and teachers signed a petition demanding that the Durham School Board end its contract with the county sheriff's department. That happened in cities around the country.

     Jennah Formey, now a 17-year-old student at N.C. Central University who graduated high school in June, told me why she'd helped organize a march demanding police leave the schools. She'd seen, she said, friends whose interactions with campus cops escalated in ways that could have ended tragically.

"When you go to school and make a mistake, it could affect the rest of your life," she said.

      Sure, they're called school resource officers, or SROs, but as Shakespeare said, a po-po by any other name will still whomp you upside the head if you don't show the proper deference - and we all know how smart-mouthed teens since Socrates's time can try the patience of a saint.

      If you're anything like me, you hate it when old geezers play the "back-in-my-day" card.

But back in my day, there were no police in schools, and there is no evidence that children today are any worse than we were.

During however many years it took me to finish at Richmond Senior High School in Rockingham, we had an unarmed, one-legged deputy whose main job was to babysit the building overnight and to let the basketball team in when we returned late from games.

His name was Mr. Sanford, and we respected the heck out of him. Despite his uniform, I don't think we even regarded him as a cop. Instead of being feared, he was, another alum of that school said, beloved.

      That doesn't mean we weren't punished. When you misbehaved in class, you were sent to "the office," which inspired the same warm feeling that Cervantes no doubt felt when summoned by the Inquisition.

      After Mr. Blackwell or the Rev. Greene, our two assistant principals, got through telling you how disappointed they were in you and how you were embarrassing your aunt who worked so hard to send you to school, man, you longed for the warm embrace of a cop.

      Few SROs are as beloved as Mr. Sanford was, and students I've talked to over the years are more apt to view police in their schools as an occupying force rather than a beloved figure.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow said that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Too often when you're a cop, it seems like every misdeed looks like a crime.

Of course, when the career criminal broke into my house in the wee hours several years ago while I was upstairs trying to sleep, I didn't need a social worker to come and talk to him about his motivations. (His motivation was obviously my Bose stereo he'd stacked up beside the door.)

And when my truck broke down last week on I-85 North after midnight, so far out in the road that massive 18-wheelers were missing me by inches, I didn't need a shrink: I needed the Durham County deputy sheriff who came, turned on his flashing lights and lit some flares to keep the trucks from turning me into roadkill.

I'm glad they had the money to do that and the deputy didn't have to stand in the highway holding a lighted match to redirect traffic.


1 Comment

I agree to almost everything you said. Just checkout the mayor of Apex, who ran unopposed. He was the police presence at Apex High School when all 3 of my children went there and was and is well respected and trusted.





Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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