The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Excessive arrests are unwarranted

Police departments should consider using alternative law enforcement measures

<p>The Charlottesville and University police departments should work closely with community groups and service providers.</p>

The Charlottesville and University police departments should work closely with community groups and service providers.

Over 12 million people are arrested in the United States each year. While arrest has been a fundamental tool of the American criminal justice system, the detrimental impacts of an arrest on the suspect, their family and their community are not necessarily warranted by the severity of the crime. The Charlottesville and University police departments should work closely with community groups and service providers to use non-coercive measures and fewer arrests to deal with the kinds of disruptive behavior police are usually tasked with solving.

Arrests have traditionally been valued as a way to let communities know the identity of a suspect and to assure them the suspect won’t do more harm while under custody. However, a large portion of the people arrested don’t threaten public safety. Being arrested primarily makes them more likely to become repeat offenders, without remedying the underlying causes of the actual infraction.

There are many alternatives which police departments could explore and implement. The most obvious solutions involve low-level offenders. Richmond, for example, is one of many cities with several crisis drop-off centers. These drop-off centers emphasize an individual’s safety and recovery, rather than punishment. Instead of resolving non-violent immediate problems by making an arrest, police officers could use these drop-off centers as an alternative resource. Moreover, police could expand the use of citations and summonses for a broader range of minor offenses.

Limiting arrests isn’t simply a matter of restricting what a police officer can do. There needs to be active participation by community members in identifying public safety goals and developing alternative ways for achieving them. At the very least, police departments should reevaluate which arrests are necessary and which are not. While this is not a full, systemic solution, this is something to consider in order to decrease the number of arrests and to generally improve the current state of the criminal justice system.

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