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Forum, June 14: Eight police reforms that can’t wait

Published: 6/13/2020 10:00:12 PM
Modified: 6/13/2020 10:00:10 PM
Eight police reforms that can’t wait

On June 3, President Barack Obama hosted an event sponsored by Campaign Zero, a group committed to combating police violence. The topics included a discussion of “8 Can’t Wait,” a project focused on reforming eight police policies to create a safer environment for everyone. The group has been gathering and analyzing data from police departments throughout the country. It drafted eight provisions that could be incorporated into local policies. The recent outrage demonstrated by people of all races indicates that this is time for action. And these policy statements can be adopted right now to reduce the incidence of unnecessary force.

The statements, grounded in and informed by data, reflect what the researchers have found to be effective and have received buy-in from a diverse group, including representatives of the police. They are:

■ Ban chokeholds and strangleholds.

■ Require de-escalation.

■ Require warning before shooting.

■ Exhaust all other means before shooting.

■ Establish a duty to intervene and stop excessive force by other officers.

■ Ban shooting at moving vehicles.

■ Require use-of-force continuum.

■ Require comprehensive reporting each time an officer uses force or threatens to do so.

Where adopted, these policies have reduced police violence against civilians up to 72%, and have also reduced violence against police themselves. In other words, adherence to these policies makes everyone in our communities safer, including those whose duty it is to keep us safe.

We urge all Upper Valley police chiefs to review these eight steps and report to their governing bodies which have been adopted, which they would recommend adding and which require further discussion. We urge those governing bodies to add a discussion of the policies to the agenda of their next meeting and to adopt and publish policies based on these eight steps within a month or let the public know why they have not done so.

Discussion of these policies is important. But they do not need further study; they have been studied. Further proof of their effectiveness is not necessary; that proof already exists. It is time to act.

CAPPY and MARK NUNLIST

Lebanon

A recent interaction with the police

With police brutality in the headlines — as well it should be if it is ever to stop, and it must — I want to describe my family’s recent interactions with our local police.

An issue arose with our home while we were away this winter. The officer I spoke to listened, expressed his understanding and concern and informed me of my options. He called back to clarify one aspect of what he had told me when he received additional information about it.

When we were finally able to return home, an additional concern arose. A new officer took the call since the first one was off duty at that time. The second officer came to our home, listened to our concerns and took on the case. He spent many hours trying to help resolve the issue and conveyed a genuine sense of care, hoping to assist in finding a positive outcome. Along the way, he consistently showed respect and professionalism in his dealings with all parties. His persistence and support helped us clear up the matter. When the problem was resolved, it was very clear that he was pleased for us.

This is also who the police are, even in these very challenging times.

Please remember not to judge anyone by the “category ” they represent — be it race, religion, gender or profession.

Thank you, Hanover Police Department.

CHRISTINE DEMMENT

Etna

Moving between contrasting worlds

I have been a full-time resident of the Upper Valley for the past 20 years. It is a comfortable, retired life for my husband and myself. But I still find it a very strange, white place, where at any given event in the 900-seat Spaulding Auditorium there may be one person of color, maybe two.

We lived in Washington, D.C., for 30 years. Admittedly, our neighborhood, west of Rock Creek Park, initially saw few persons of color. Our working lives however, were very different.

As a clinical social worker, I worked in community-based settings providing services to persons with severe mental illness. Most, though not all, were black. My professional colleagues were both white and black. My husband worked for an international organization that sent him to Africa, the Middle East, Asia. We were accustomed to moving in worlds of many colors.

We returned to D.C. occasionally as I kept consulting work there. Each time I was reminded of the contrast between my current and former homes.

I often wonder what it is like to be a person of color living in this white world.

FELICITY SWAYZE

Hartford

Chaos and threats to democracy

I do not believe that people peaceably assembling and marching in exercise of their First Amendment rights is to be thought of as “chaos.” Rather, this is democracy in action.

However, looting and provoking authority is indeed rioting and should be forcibly policed. Those who engage in such acts, a small minority, are not exercising First Amendment rights. When not engaged in mere crime, they deserve to be recognized for what they are: provocateurs. Such people are indeed a threat to democracy.

Many in government, and among the police, apparently do recognize the difference. But not all. Nor do all elements of government or the media support citizen rights.

Perhaps the most fundamental right is the right to be secure in one’s person. This includes being treated with justice by authorities.

Protestors beaten and gassed under orders from the U.S. attorney general is a denial of fundamental rights. The killing of a citizen for allegedly attempting to pass a counterfeit $20 bill shows police acting as judge, jury and executioner, without any semblance of due process. Like proceedings have been found acceptable by police unions and all-white juries for decades. Such actions more offend against American democracy than most of what is occurring in our streets.

The media abuses its constitutional freedom when it — deliberately? — lumps looters and rioters with peaceful, lawful protesters and when it fearfully proclaims peaceful protests against fundamental racial injustice to be “chaos.” Is it too much to expect that a free press should aim to focus on “real” news? Some of us are old enough to remember 1968. The angry protests against the war in Vietnam, the assassinations, the cities burning. It all culminated at the Democratic convention in Chicago. The confrontations that took place in the streets included what came to be called a “police riot.” Like Mayor Daley then, President Donald Trump would have been in his element. Lest we forget, that was a far closer approximation to “chaos” than anything seen so far this year.

BORIS G. von YORK

Springfield, Vt.

Is there a vaccine for racism?

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the last few months. In January, news about the threat of a new virus was reported. The U.S. had its first cases by the end of the month. Fast forward to the beginning of June. Nearly 2 million Americans have fallen victim to COVID-19, and nearly 110,000 have died. Now, maybe, the curve is beginning to flatten. How were we able to come together so quickly to address a health risk that affects all of us?

Admittedly, there has been some stumbling and disagreement. As a nation, though, we mostly worked together to reduce the spread. Through scientific study, researchers learned how the virus was transmitted. A national public education program was developed to promote behavioral changes to reduce transmission. The U.S. House and Senate passed bipartisan legislation to address the deep economic impact of the pandemic. Governors and mayors guided their constituents through difficult social and economic challenges. The media provided daily reporting about the effects of mitigation efforts. Celebrities came together to raise money, awareness and our spirits. People began to reach out to help their vulnerable neighbors. Incredible energy is being poured into developing a vaccine that will eventually protect us from this cruel disease.

On the heels of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, a shocking video from Minneapolis reminds us of another systemic and deadly threat: racism. Many are, once again, seeking a solution for this 400-year-old social virus. In just three months, we have come together as a country in an effort to defeat a microscopic germ. Why not use a similar approach to cure racial inequality, discrimination and injustice once and for all? Of course, there is no vaccine for racism, but there is a powerful treatment. It’s called voting. The first phase of recovery is to elect federal, state and local leaders who will be champions of legislative and policy change. Please consider being part of the solution by exercising your right to vote.

SHAWN PHELPS

Grantham

Where does it stop?

Several months ago, President Donald Trump told four newly elected U.S. representatives to “go back where you came from!” How the black Africans in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries would have rejoiced hearing those words, to return to their loved ones, their homes, their fields.

They didn’t book passage on ocean liners to visit Charleston, Biloxi or Atlanta. They were kidnapped, chained in the lower depths of ships, shipped to the West Indies, to the New World colonies, sold in slave markets to white plantation owners, beaten, flogged and worked as slaves from dawn to dusk.

Last year, a black man in handcuffs was led — with a rope — through the streets of Galveston, Texas, by two smirking mounted police. Why? A misdemeanor trespassing charge.

Now we shoot and kill black people who are out jogging. We kneel on the neck of a black man until he dies. Who are we? What are we?

JANN MACDONALD

Quechee

We can turn a crisis into an opportunity for change

I have decided to run for the Vermont House of Representatives to represent the Windsor-Rutland District towns of Bethel, Rochester, Stockbridge and Pittsfield.

When people ask me why I’m running, I point to my local record of bringing people together to find creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. As an active member of the Bethel Revitalization Initiative, founder of Bethel University and with my involvement in numerous civic organizations over the years, I believe it’s time to offer my experience and skills to my neighbors as Vermont grapples with incredibly complex issues.

I was born and educated in Bethel and am well aware of the challenges confronting our rural communities. My first car was old and rusty when I bought it as a teenager. With a little mesh and a bucket or two of Bondo, it was inspectable and on the road. Then one day I tapped someone’s bumper and my Bondo fenders completely disintegrated. The Bondo hid the problems just enough to get by, but it wasn’t fixed or safe. Just out of sight. COVID-19 has revealed many such patches— underfunded state colleges, two-paycheck families facing financial ruin, local businesses hanging by the slimmest of margins, struggling schools and taxpayers struggling to pay for them, food and housing insecurity, inadequate internet access, environmental neglect, and more.

The social, civic and financial fallout of COVID-19 will be felt for months and years to come. I believe that through attention to detail combined with creative problem-solving and determination, we can turn this crisis into an opportunity for real change. This next year is going to be challenging. We need people willing and able to face those challenges and I would be honored to represent the citizens of Bethel, Rochester, Stockbridge and Pittsfield as we work to find lasting solutions. Please consider voting for me in the Democratic primary.

Voting by mail begins June 27 for the primary election on Aug. 11. Contact your town clerk to request a ballot and please reach out to me with questions or concerns.

KIRK WHITE

Bethel

‘Bring the boat home’

To those who claim to represent me, a 97-year-old with her name engraved in granite at the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., I demand: “The sea is raging. Bring the boat home.”

My late husband, Howard Harwell, played basketball in the seventh and eighth grades in Pasadena, Calif., opposite Jackie Robinson.

LINN DUVALL HARWELL

Perkinsville

Thanks for ‘Sunday Seniors’

Thank you, Valley News, for the new series of first-person accounts from local senior citizens navigating these trying times. Julie Eckert’s piece (“Preparing, counting blessings during pandemic,” June 7) provided an insightful perspective from a member of an at-risk population. Her description of the practical steps she has taken, such as adding a phone charger to an “always-ready emergency bag,” were complemented by lighthearted observations such as “waving at babies and mommas on small explorations” in her neighborhood.

I recall seeing a wonderful collection of David Eckert’s watercolor paintings at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center a couple of years ago and it struck me that Julie’s essay may have captured in words some of the feelings that David conveyed on canvas. And for both of those expressions, I am grateful.

RICHARD McNULTY

Hanover

An important daily connection

As the sun shines into the house and wakens me in the morning, the one scheduled event of my day begins: retrieving the Valley News from my front step. Because of COVID-19 and the restrictions it places on our world, there isn’t one other daily activity I usually do that’s now available. As a retired person, I have consistently found ways to stay active — volunteering in the Lebanon community with the Recreation and Parks Department, with AVA gallery, with Ledyard Charter School, with my grandchildren, and regularly going to the CCBA. My current situation has turned all of those stimulating, brain-enhancing activities into something virtual.

While virtual can keep us alive, it is not really a human attribute; it is more like sci-fi, pretending there are other humans involved. I have to admit that when I meet with people on Zoom, I am often distracted by the others on the screen and don’t remember what was said. Which brings me back to the Valley News.

Each morning, your paper reconnects me to the Upper Valley in its usual daily, concrete, event-filled way. I learn what my neighbors are doing, what businesses still exist, what is happening around the community, the nation and the world while physically holding you in my hand. Beyond the reading and substantial thoughts, the Valley News continues to briefly docket my undocketed day by providing me with Cryptoquip and Jumble to work my brain and connect it to a physical activity — writing. And beyond that, by scanning the top of the page, I find out what day of the week it is and what’s the date — info that helps me navigate life.

Thank you for providing me with some substance to my day.

FRANK GOULD

Lebanon




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