Committee on Equity for Essex

Newsletter April 2021

Greg Duggan, Jill Evans, Ron Hoague, Marguerite Ladd, Erin Maguire, Owiso Makuku, Evan Teich.

The Committee on Equity for Essex is dedicated to redistributing decision-making, resources, and power into our community to ensure the voices of those who have been historically marginalized are centered. This is an ongoing effort and we continue to seek feedback as we progress. Contact Marguerite Ladd at mladd@essex.org

The committee has highlighted a few stories and updates from our work over the past couple of months. 

COMMUNITY/MUNICIPAL:

We are aware that community leadership is not representative of our population, whether amongst employees or volunteer committee/board members.  Awareness is the first step. By seizing an opportunity to announce an opening on an Essex committee with a member of the Safety, Policing and Racial Justice Task Force, we sparked an interest that resulted in the appointment to the Economic Development Commission. It is now more gender balanced and has another member who brings with her a diverse and complementary voice -- and experience -- to this important Town/Village committee. We expect this to be part of the burst of new energy that we are seeing on many of our boards and commissions. 

Based on the recommendations coming from our work on Racial Justice, Equity, and Inclusion, both the Village Board of Trustees and the Town Selectboard recognized the desire to attract a more diverse cross-section of our community to serve on our appointed Boards and Commissions. One major suggestion was to look at providing a stipend to cover costs -- like the need for childcare, transportation, or a pizza -- so that volunteers could attend a meeting.  Therefore, each board approved a modest stipend for persons on their boards and commissions.

Safety, Policing and Racial Justice Task Force Update

This is an excerpt from a letter written to the Essex Community by Essex Municipal Leadership on 7/29/20, as a reminder of our work.

“We hear you. We hear you saying our responses to racial justice are inadequate. We hear you telling us that we need to improve what we do. We know we have a lot of work to do... We need to listen to you now, and in the long-term. We want Essex to become a better community, one that embraces our diversity and is more welcoming to all people. We understand that we need to change. We want you to help us understand what change needs to look like. We recognize that you need to tell us how you feel, and what you want and need to move forward as a safe and welcoming community for all.”

Most recently, the Safety, Policing and Racial Justice Task Force held a half day retreat on 2/20/21 where the following priorities were identified:

  • Ensure that community leadership is representative of the population
  • Consider a range of strategies to improve policing (citizen oversight, data collection, training, resource reallocation)
  • Build community commitment to equity, inclusion and racial justice through ongoing community conversations, education and training
  • Improve education system 

The Task Force has 4 more meetings scheduled through early June 2021.  Sue McCormack of Creative Discourse, which is facilitating the task force meetings,did a presentation of the racial equity work to a joint meeting of the Village Trustees and Town Selectboard on 3/22/21.  Here is a link to her presentation.  

The Essex Reporter also recently published a detailed article about Essex's racial equity work that you can read here.

Police Update

The Essex Police Department continues the work of moving us forward with the goal of public safety for all.  To this end, we have been working in several areas that the public has identified as concerns.  Over the past three months, we have accomplished the following:

  • In December, we purchased body cameras and the week of April 12th, we will be establishing that program.  We have needed to wait for installation as the vendors are extremely busy.  This program will ensure that we have accurate, timely video evidence that will be valuable in court as well as ensuing accountability of our officers and citizens.  Our policy follows the concepts identified as critical by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the model policy being crafted at the State level soon to be enacted into law: https://dps.vermont.gov/sites/psd/files/documents/Feedback_fall2020/BWC_policy_DRAFT_DEC2020.pdf
  •  Chief Ron Hoague has been hosting a virtual monthly ‘Coffee Chat’ on the last Friday of the month where community members can converse about happenings within the department and in Essex[GD6] .  The latest, from March 26, can be viewed here:   https://www.essexvt.org/748/Press-Releases-Public-Notices-Reports
  •  The department recently added a policy on response to persons in crisis that both guides officers in response procedures and authorizes dispatchers to divert calls that traditionally have been handled by police officers to our partners with Howard Center Community Outreach[GD7] .  This new policy and others of interest can be found here:  https://www.essexvt.org/778/Operational-Policies
  •  Finally, the Department has crafted a new mission statement that replaces one from the early 2000s and reflects the contemporary values of the department.   The new mission statement was developed with concepts provided by the employees of the department.  Along with this, we have established three core values for the department:  Courage, Integrity, Respect.

More on this can be found here:  https://www.essexvt.org/356/Mission-Statement-and-Core-Values


Our Mission Statement:

It is the mission of the Essex Police Department to safeguard the lives and property of the people we serve, and to ensure public safety for all in partnership with the community.  We dedicate ourselves to do so with honor and integrity, while serving with the highest degree of ethical standards at all times.

Working with Essex Westford School District

The Essex Westford School District is integrally connected to the equity work taking place within the municipality to support grassroots and systemic efforts to address inequities across the community. Voices for Inclusion in Essex and Westford is continuing to hold meetings and discuss awareness and education activities for our community related to equity and is co-facilitated by the school district and the Essex Community Justice Center.  The school district centers one of its 9 areas of focus in community relationships.  As such, EWSD is part of the Safety, Policing and Racial Justice Task Force [GD8] as well as the Committee on Equity for Essex.   EWSD being with the municipality's work and efforts toward equity is essential for the larger community.  EWSD continues to focus on the nine areas of equity action: hiring and human resources, curriculum auditing, student leadership, professional development, community relationships, the role of the Essex Police Department with EWSD, policy and decision making, and equity monitoring and reporting and bias response.  We continue to make progress in each of these areas.  

OTHER NEWS

The Essex Community Justice Center and Chief Hoague have been asked to be panelists at the “Restorative Approaches and Policing Institute” that is being held by The National Center on Restorative Justice (NCRJ) in February 2021.  The Institute is funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance/Office of Justice Programs (BJA/OJP) and is being convened as a national “Think Tank” where we will engage in discussion with other leading practitioners on what restorative justice and policing practices/programs are currently happening around the US, what themes exist across these programs, what the need is for restorative approaches in policing, and what opportunities exist for expanding this work. 

Municipal staff plans to provide updates on racial justice work monthly. The updates will also be posted on Town and Village websites (www.essexvt.org and www.essexjunction.org) and Front Porch Forum. If you are interested in receiving updates directly, please email Jill Evans, Director of the Essex Community Justice Center, at jevans@essex.org to be added to an email list.

 

Sincerely,

Jill Evans, Director, Essex Community Justice Center

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

OTHER NEWS

  1. Thank you to the more than 50 community members who participated in one of four listening sessions recently held to discuss safety, policing and racial justice in Essex. Our final listening session was held with members of the Nepali community on November 1st.
  2. Have you heard of VIEW (Voices for Inclusion in Essex & Westford)? VIEW is a group of diverse community members who are working to create events and opportunities for Essex and Westford residents that allow for all voices to be heard and understood. VIEW wants to strengthen our community by looking at it through the various lenses of people we live and work with. If you are interested in learning more please reach out to Karen Dolan at kdolan@essex.org and/or visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/947416479013737

If you want to receive occasional updates about this work, please email Deputy Manager Greg Duggan and he will add you to an email distribution list. You can reach Greg at gduggan@essex.org

Lastly, for an update about state level work around policing and racial justice, please see a webpage seeking input on several draft policies that are being worked on: https://dps.vermont.gov/modernization

Sincerely,
Evan Teich, Unified Manager, Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction
Ron Hoague, Essex Police Chief
Greg Duggan, Deputy Manager, Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction
Elaine Haney, Selectboard Chair
Vince Franco, Selectboard

IN THE NEWS...

Read an article written by Mike Nosek from The Essex Reporter as he interviews municipal officials and Susan McCormack from Creative Discourse.

Have you experienced or observed racism in Essex?

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