I’m writing as a member of the Community Safety Review Committee that worked to create a report and recommendations recently shared with the Selectboard.
I found my work on this committee to be both collaborative and committed to uplifting the voices of people in our community who experience the most harm from the current way our systems operate.
The incredible work that facilitators Emily Megas-Russell and Shea Witzberger put into this process is a gift to our community. The facilitators were open and willing to hear feedback from the committee.
I was surprised to hear differently from committee member Kelsey Rice.
In contrast to Kelsey’s commentary, I support the report’s recommendations to freeze the training budget for the police department. Before more money can be spent on training, the department must acknowledge and reckon with the harm that has been caused and take a deep look at the legacy of systemic racism and how it plays out in biased policing. Until then, more training won’t be effective.
There are many valuable insights that this report lifts up. As a white, cisgender, queer person with class privilege, I see this section standing out as important to center:
“Those most impacted by policing” is not synonymous with “those who commit crimes.” It was acknowledged by the police department itself and almost all social support workers we spoke with that folks living in poverty and homelessness are the communities that the police have the most daily contact with. BIPOC people who shared their experiences spoke to frequent police interactions for noncriminal activity that involved racial bias and/or profiling. People experiencing mental health crises are continuously harmed by stigmatized myths and labeled as “unpredictable” or “violent,” including in training utilized by the police, despite data and clear evidence that they are more likely to be victims of violence (including violence from providers) than perpetrators.”
Ideally, I would’ve liked to see even more budgetary impact for our police department; if this small step is ignored, it’s sending a message to our community that we’re not ready to listen to the impacted voices highlighted in this report.
We asked a lot of our community members to share their deeply personal experiences with us. The best way to show that we’re listening to these voices is to implement the recommendations in the report according to the proposed timeline.