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When’s it OK to call the cops? The new questions being asked in the US

A two-year-old, Jerry Seinfeld once said, is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it. As the parent of a soon-to-be two-year-old, this quote rang true. It’s why we go through more paper towels in this house than I’m comfortable admitting in public.

But also, while not meaning to compare the largest advanced democracy in the world to a toddler, Seinfeld’s is an accurate description of how it feels to live in the United States right now: berries and banana on the ceiling, milk and honey splattered on the walls, and the promise of something refreshing, even transcendent, if and when the mess gets cleaned up.

My neighbourhood parents’ email listserv exemplifies the inside-a-blender turmoil of the US in 2020. The listserv is normally a marketplace for the detritus of childhood: thoroughly loved Lego sets, well-worn strollers, piles of only slightly stained onesies selling for $10 a handful. But in the past few weeks, the email group has become a site of vigorous, sometimes contentious, debate over when, if ever, it is okay to call the police.

Following the US's recent civil unrest, a majority of Americans now see police reform as essential.

Following the US’s recent civil unrest, a majority of Americans now see police reform as essential.Credit:Getty Images

It all started when one mother posted a flow chart, put together by a local non-profit, which proffered alternatives to police in conflict resolution. “Steps to Ask Yourself,” begins the chart. “Step 1: Is this merely an inconvenience to me? Can I put up with this and be okay?” Her email was prompted by the recent protests, which have taken place across the nation against police brutality towards black people.

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