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A ‘broken system’ needs attention

Commentary: An open letter to our congressman

This is an open letter to U.S. Rep. Tom Reed:

I am very concerned about the issue of public safety. I have raised both white and black sons, and have had much greater fear for my black sons due to the risk of systemic violence against them simply because of their skin color. I have been terrified and chilled by the deaths of many black people at the hands of law enforcement.

I am struck particularly by the cases of Breonna Taylor, killed in her bed while her boyfriend tried to protect her from intruders, and Philando Castile, brutally shot during a traffic stop in front of a young child. I can’t help but believe that these young persons, full of life and promise, could have lived had they been white.

Three of my family members serve in the field of mental health counseling, and I know that they possess skills for de-escalation of aggressive behaviors in their toolkits which could be much more effective than the use of force. My understanding of the “defund the police” movement is not that we would abandon public safety, but that we would supplement police action with the skills of other professionals, who have been trained to handle situations that police have not. I believe it is unfair to ask law enforcement officers to handle situations that they have not been educated to deal with: situations of domestic dispute, addiction, etc.

Of course there is a place for a police response, but if Breonna Taylor was your daughter, an aspiring medical professional dedicated to service, wouldn’t you wish for something better than for her to be murdered in her bed without cause?

I was stunned and disheartened to hear that you are in favor of “The Defund Cities that Defund the Police Act.” How in the world are we to move forward as a civil society if we remove support for attempts to change or repair broken systems? Can’t we admit that there are problems and work to improve our institutions, without compromising the well-being of citizens because of a political game?

I certainly hope I receive a satisfying response from you. The people of this great nation are using our great gift of freedom of speech to express our discontent. Please do not ignore the cries of the multitudes.

Thank you.

Mary Jane Wagner is a Fredonia resident.

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