Dawn Proctor’s past with her son has helped her to empathize with the growing unrest over police brutality across the country that stemmed from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“I have this experience to compare it to - Colin was visiting me, he was on probation, there was a knock on my door, four fully outfitted sheriffs complete with guns and batons were there looking for Colin and put handcuffs on him right in the living room, which was something I had not seen before,” she said.

It turned out Colin had missed a phone call with his probation officer, which was a parole violation.

“It was a show of force that was completely unnecessary in relation to the problem,” she said. “I believe from my experience that there is an overreaction that takes place. The fact that someone is using or high should not be factored into how that person is treated. I asked them ‘do you really need to send four sheriffs?’ and they said they said ‘we usually send more.’”

She acknowledged the police are overworked and stretched too thin to deal with social issues, but said training should be put into place to diffuse rather than escalate situations. The recent death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, who was killed at the hands of a police officer for becoming agitated while drunk, resonates with Dawn.

“Would I have wanted my son killed because he was drunk?,” she asked “There needs to be a whole new education for officers. They are not being trained to deal with people who are high or doped up. They have no experience, no training, police departments are unable and do not have the resources to treat addicts.

She now spends some of her time in retirement lobbying legislators for prison reform and for re-allocating funds towards treatment.

“We need to build criminal treatment institutions in societies – right now for addicts your future is jails or death,” she said. “There is nowhere to send people who have drug or alcohol addiction, nowhere people can go for indefinite help. 75% of people in jail are there for drug-related crimes.”

She is excited by calls for rethinking the role of police in communities.

“I’m so glad this is happening, this wave, there’s so many related issues,” she said. “It’s going to require a big financial reworking on the local, state and federal level to end privately run prisons, but I feel the energy and it’s encouraging.”

Neal Patten can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.