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Corona has turned the world upside down in less than half of a year. How will things be next year? The shut-down of almost all travel has led to much local introspection. With many activities on hold, we see like under a magnifying glass how our society really ticks. This gave the George Floyd death such momentum. In a series of investigations I will ask today how the US polices its communities. It has long been a topic, but it has come back with unprecedented urgency. Never before have I seen this nation look at its problems in this unflinching manner.
"In recognizing the humanity in our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute." (Thurgood Marshall, inscription on the steps of the Western Police Station in West Baltimore)
The issue of public safety and policing intersects in many ways with design, architecture and planning.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design was an early strategy which made architects aware of the design implications on crime and policing as seen from the angle of the police.
I live in Atlanta and my best clients have brown and black skin, I live in an in-town neighborhood and am active in community meetings which includes Public Safety with police officers. I am in the unique position of being a female architect, knowing and interacting with people of all skin tones as well as police officers. I know a % of the solution is looking structurally at a deeper level-- like looking at an engineer's description of a steel beam but understanding at a deeper level how the atoms move close and work together making the beam strong, than say a beam of carbon dioxide. Other countries like the UK and Australia do not have this culturally embedded problem: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/08/us/us-police-floyd-protests-country-comparisons-intl/index.html and both these countries do not allow the citizens guns. Our police officers are paranoid of getting shot, which I would be too if I were an officer. This makes them militant and war-like instead of being the kindly people we want them to be. These guys are not saints, and neither would anyone be, living in a culture with abundant guns being pointed at them. This problem is not going away unless the underlying structural problems are acknowledged, which in the USA is not going away anytime soon. Although we have people of all ages trying really hard to be inclusive, the next incident won't be long in coming, the underlying cultural structure of guns in the USA is too strong.