From the Community Coalition on Race:
We are pleased that the Maplewood Township Committee took a vote of no confidence in Police Chief Cimino and placed him along with Sergeant Cummis on administrative leave in light of the excessive force used by the police against youth and the tactics to push them into Irvington after the July 5, 2016 fireworks. While this is the most visibly egregious dereliction of duty witnessed recently, there have been concerns over time about racial profiling and biased treatment by the police.
The Community Coalition on Race has a history of advocating for fair and unbiased treatment of people of color by the police and in crime reporting. The Coalition’s approach is collaborative; we work to effectively persuade government leaders or others who have the power to change their ways of thinking and doing things. Specifically on police issues over the years, the Coalition has:
- Beginning in 2006, the Coalition challenged the municipal bodies to be accountable for ensuring that any ordinances on gangs were enforced in an equitable and even-handed manner that did not use racial profiling. The strategies suggested included community policing and police training in methods of working with respect and sensitivity toward all groups.
- In 2012, facing community concerns about an uptick in street crime, assaults and robbery (in a period during which crime was actually low overall), the Coalition recommended a collaborative effort among local organizations, including the town governments, to launch a campaign to “keep our towns safe for everyone.” Trustees worked with the Public Safety committee and our municipal liaisons.
- In 2014, our trustees asked the townships to develop resolutions that would stand as community positions on racial equity following the national responses to racial profiling, explicit and implicit bias, and systemic forms of racism in the aftermath of Ferguson and Staten Island. Both towns ultimately passed resolutions.
- In 2016, along with the SOMa Clergy Council, South Orange Village Township trustees, Maplewood Township Committee, and youth groups, we supported students and CHS alumni in their #Notinourtwotowns open-mic event. We would like to set the record straight on our involvement with that event because it was mischaracterized in print and at the Township Committee meeting last night:
Our involvement with the event was limited to the logistics of the forum: working with the school district to provide the space; helping to usher students to a space for a youth-led conversation separate from the adult community forum in the auditorium; and offering general office administrative support. The Coalition Program Director also wrote a statement to help the initial planning meeting focus on the ultimate goal that ended up being the bones of the pledge that all parties agreed to: her emphasis throughout was that the event should and would be youth-led. We promoted the event through our email list to help ensure that the community was aware and would participate. We did not specially invite any town leaders or police, nor did we have anything to do with their appearance at the event or on stage.
We continued the dialog with youth, adults, police, and town leaders later that summer at a Coffee House Discussion event where people engaged in small group conversations.
- In 2017, the Coalition met with the police chiefs to advocate for intensive anti-bias training that exceeds requirements by the state and we provided connections to a nationally recognized resource; we advocated for building stronger connections to youth in the community; we offered to take police on the Coalition tour of the community from residents’ perspectives; we asked for evidence of and renewed attention to diversity hiring practices; and we asked for transparency in reporting crimes and police actions as well as timely responses to community concerns.
Beyond these advocacy efforts, the educational value of the Coalition’s events and forums cannot be underestimated in our efforts to get broad-based support from residents who don’t always see racial inclusion issues or addressing systemic racism in local power structures as important to them or the overall health of the community they live in. The Coalition on Race has worked with hundreds of people over the years who are truly dedicated and have given time, attention, talents, and skills to advancing the cause of racial equity and true inclusion in the schools, in neighborhoods, and in all aspects of community life. We seek to work with any individuals and groups with the same goals. We are always looking for ways to do things better and we welcome productive criticism so that we can make our aspirations a reality.