“This is my fourth protest this week. And yes, I’m pretty exhausted, but imagine how exhausting it is when you have to fight against a system that was never built for you. A system that is oppressive and toxic to our race. A system that is inherently ingrained in how this nation came about. We can’t just have more trainings on racial bias or sensitivity — no more. We need to go beyond that. We need to create a public safety system that is founded on compassion.” — Lewiston City Councilor Safiya Khalid, Black Lives Matter rally, Augusta, June 7

Becca: What does a community need, and whose needs are most, and least, attended to in a given community? How much of the Rockland budget goes towards addiction resources and recovery? How much to food? Housing? Emotional health resources? Face masks, gloves, sanitizer? How about asphalt? And how about the police department — how much to SUVs, guns, and (possibly?) tear gas? Why does the Rockland Police Department seem to have the time to do more PR than the Rockland city government does?

Nate: I’m not a fan of the word “community,” which seems to mean whatever its user wants it to mean. Does our “community” include McDonald’s? The county jail? Summer residents? Anyway, to answer (some of) your budget questions: The Rockland City Council has given preliminary approval to a fiscal year 2021 budget that calls for approximately $14 million in expenditures, with approximately $2.2 million of that for the police department. Other large departments include Public Services (which includes services formerly known as “public works”) at $3.1 million and the Fire Department, also at $2.2 million. Generally the city doesn’t directly fund addiction, recovery, food, housing or emotional health services, though it does contribute (at a relatively small scale) to social service organizations that offer some of these things. It also directly aids residents through General Assistance.

Becca: I use “community” as a way to rethink the limiting Western individualistic ideas of what towns, cities, and states are. Instead, we could think about enacting caring for all who are around us, as well as far away. If you imagine what holistic community care looks like rather than simply upholding archaic structures of the ways governments were initially constructed, you could switch up the budget. Rather than putting so much of that money into policing and incarceration, you could rethink policing systems entirely. Why do we have mini-militaries in our backyards, tasked with far too many things, and with no true accountability to the community? With many in the movement for Black lives calling for the partial or complete defunding of police departments and instead putting that money into things that keep more people safer and healthier, I’ve been learning a lot. Words by Patrisse Cullors, Alex Vitale, Ruthie Wilson Gilmore, and Chenjerai Kumanyika have been especially helpful. Research shows that most police “reforms” have failed to enact the better community safety they had promised. Police in schools, all over, have led to worse outcomes for children — especially children of color — and they have not substantively thwarted school shootings. In general, the police system rarely stops violence from happening, but rather, responds to it afterwards. Furthermore, police often inflict violence and trauma on others. Unfortunately, I can say that from personal experience, as well as from research. Police, no matter how well-intentioned, are an arm of the state, which has almost always protected property/corporations/money over people; richer people over poorer; white over Black, brown, Indigenous and Asian; Christian over other religions; men over women; able-bodied people over disabled; cis or straight over LGBTQI+; people over “nature,” etc. Here in the midcoast, people are beginning to organize. The Midcoast Maine Protection from Police Facebook group is brand new, and doesn’t have specific demands yet, but it is a place for people to discuss experiences with local law enforcement and talk about ideas from reform to defunding to abolishment.

Nate: I would certainly be interested in hearing from people about their experiences with local law enforcement (note the studiously neutral manner in which I phrased that!), and I’m also planning on going for ridealongs with the Rockland Police Department. I’m coming to this set of ideas relatively late, I think mostly due to the privilege I’ve had in generally having positive and cordial encounters with police officers. But I do want to hear more from Rocklanders: What have your experiences been like with the Rockland Police Department, positive, negative, or neither? What would you like to see our police do or not do? Could we or should we have an emergency response system that looks different from the one we have now? These aren’t idle questions; you can e-mail us at limecitylove@protonmail.com.