What Is Public Safety?

In the modern age, we hear a lot of buzzwords that are used by the various factions of different media outlets. These are things like analytics and synergy for business stories, or terror and chaos for serious conflict articles.

These are not bad words by any means, in fact a lot of the time they are necessary words to describe situations, it’s just that they can be used to promote a certain idea that isn’t necessary as well.

These kinds of words have been used since there has been news, but one phrase has sprung up a lot, especially in recent years, and that phrase is: public safety.

We hear this phrase a lot from our politicians, our elected officials, our co-workers, and even our friends, but if we actually take a look at the phrase, what does it actually mean?

What is public safety? And why is it so important as to be used as a political standpoint for many different people? Well, that’s what we are looking at today, where we tackle the phrase public safety and break it down for anyone confused by the vague definitions many people give it.

Definition of public safety

So, first, the essential part: what actually is public safety? We will take a look at it from a higher level than normal safety, think more governmental institutions than a kindly neighbor helping your kids cross the road.

At the highest levels, public safety is protecting the public from large scale threats, disasters, collapses, and smaller, more general threats using a system of institutions and organizations to enforce law and predict catastrophes.

Each threat is dealt with by specific institutions, and each institution normally has a department inside its structure dedicated to more niche threats.

In the United States, there are many such organizations where dealing with these threats is their designated job. For example, for large scale threats, like war or terrorist attacks, there is the military, the CIA, or the FBI, whereas for disasters or general threats to public safety, there are the emergency services, FEMA, or the police.
Each of these organizations has a dedicated role to ensure public safety in one capacity or another.

This may be by preventing upcoming disasters or by safeguarding citizens from crimes, however the primary goal stated by these organizations is generally to prevent danger from occurring and to protect the wellbeing of the communities and citizens that reside within their obligated duty area.

How do we maintain public safety?

Public safety is maintained not just through this list of institutions, but through a series of checks, balances, and openness with the wider public. These institutions are created and maintained at the behest of governments and governmental bodies.

While the institutions, like the CIA or the police, have a difficult job ahead of them, they also receive a fair amount of power beyond what the normal public have as a necessity to carry out a lot of their duties. For example, a police officer needs the ability to detain a criminal suspected of a crime without being accused of manhandling someone.

Yet, this does not give the right for the police officer to use unnecessary force that could injure the suspect when detaining them. Hence, why we have governmental oversight in our societies for these organizations, otherwise their power may be hindered or could potentially go unchecked, and neither one is good for our public safety.

These governmental bodies can investigate if something untoward is happening and, if they can’t find anything, there is often a journalist or reporter who can inform the general public of potential issues, thanks to the policies of openness with the public.

Other ways in which public safety can be maintained is through community measures and outreach projects. These are projects like neighborhood watches, who inform the necessary bodies of potential criminal or nefarious activities happening in their area, or community-built centers, like halls or soup kitchens, who try to make the community better by helping those less fortunate or give people places to go.

These projects are small in scale compared to other organizations, but they have a great impact and help to change a lot of lives, they have even started tackling big issues, like urban poverty or climate change.

Final resorts for public safety tend to be prisons, detention centers, or psychiatric centers. These are where people are sent for breaking laws or are becoming a danger to themselves and others. For those sent to prison, this is a punishment for the crimes committed, but it is also a tool for future public safety in some measure.

Some prisons operate rehabilitation programs to try and get prisoners out of the mindset of committing crimes, others have lesser offenders work in outreach programs from the prison. In some extreme cases, prisoners who are seen as too dangerous to exist in the wider public are indefinitely kept in prison, but thankfully this is rare and not frequently done.

On the other hand, psychiatric centers are for people suffering who are in need of help and this is where they can go to receive that help. More often than not this is for their own safety, rather than because of any action that has been taken against others, and once they have made progress and gotten the help they need, they can leave without incident.

From this breakdown, it is clear that public safety is something that we as a society need to maintain and help with as a whole, rather than as separate entities.

Final Thoughts

The term public safety can be somewhat of a landmine when it comes to hearing it on the news or from other people. It seems such a vague term that anybody can throw it around, and it will likely tie into their argument, due to most problems being a threat to public safety.

Yet, with this breakdown, you can discern whether what you’re hearing is a true use of the term or that the person using it is just trying to create buzz around their story.

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