Recently, Our America’s field representative Paul Parisi organized dozens of Hometown Heroes to speak to the Tucson City Council as part of Our America’s “Safer Streets, Brighter Futures” campaign. The effort aims to shed light on the need for greater support for law enforcement in smaller cities that get ignored in the national conversation.
Gabriel Nadales, the national director of Our America and a former resident of Tucson, laid out his reason for leaving the city when he spoke at the event.
“Tucson has great potential. From the university science centers, to the nightlife and relatively low cost of living, to the great kindness of many of your residents. But crime is stealing the American Dream from the residents of Tucson. It certainly stole mine.”
As Gabriel spoke, more than 40 Hometown Heroes stood behind him sporting bright golden shirts. Their presence was a symbol of hope and a call to action.
Renee Antosh, an Our America’s Hometown Hero and a native Tucsonian, then spoke about the need to fund the police to prioritize welfare checks. As she recounts her story, she and her husband called 9/11 one night at around 8 p.m. after their relative failed to answer their calls. Yet, “By 11 a.m. the next morning. There had been no response.“ Forced to act, her husband and son broke into their relatives home, only to find him deceased.
Antosh argued that since the Tucson police department lacked officers patrolling the community, life-saving welfare checks had been deprioritized, leaving some of the most vulnerable residents alone in their time of need.
While the city council was unable to respond directly to the Hometown Heroes due to local regulations, one council member told Hometown Hero Fernando Gonzales before the meeting that their biggest struggle isn’t funding – it’s that Tucson is struggling to hire officers in the first place.
Knowing this, Fernando spoke to the city council and argued that increasing funding for the police department would actually help Tucson attract more candidates.
“I know it’s tough, the personnel right now — the hiring of people — but if they had a full budget, they’d be able to recruit and get more police officers,” said Gonzales.
Increasing the police budget would help Tucson hire more officers because the department would have the ability to increase officer pay which would attract more qualified candidates. Further, the move would also help retain and improve performance for officers already in the force.
Police are not only suffering from a lack of funding, but from a lack of support. Events like this show them – and local government – that citizens support them. Communities know that funding is critical to their ability to do their jobs well and in a way that keeps everyone involved safe, but it also takes respect for everyone involved. If they are not allowed to do their jobs, the outcomes are worse for everyone.
In a show of solidarity, we can show that communities want better for everyone. When Hometown Heroes, local government and law enforcement work together, we can all achieve our American Dream.