WASJA Letter to Local Select Boards
The WASJA will be sending this letter to the Select Boards in the Wachusett area to bring attention to the issues that we believe must be addressed in the upcoming year. Please feel free to email us your name and town if you support our requests and want to be kept updated on any progress made. Thank you in advance for your support!
Dear Members of the Select Board:
The Wachusett Area Social Justice Alliance is a group of local citizens who want to bring to your attention a series of concerns we would like for you to address at the next Select Board meeting and throughout the upcoming year. We believe each of these requests is a long overdue priority for our community and would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you in person in the upcoming months.
Our concerns and requests stem from a series of issues that we believe limits our citizens’ access to information about the functions of our local government, the information used to make those decisions, and the overall transparency of the entire process. They are also intended to address certain educational deficiencies that, if addressed, would create a more unified Wachusett area. Specifically, our requests are as follows:
- We recognize that our Finance Committee members are appointed by the Town Moderator, an elected official. Given the importance of their role in establishing the budgets of our schools, law enforcement and other local government organizations, we believe it is important for their work to be televised live or, at the least, recorded for public access. Understanding the budget and the components of the budget will create a more informed citizenry, increase confidence, and aid in transparency and accountability on all levels of our local government;
- While we respect the work of our local law enforcement and government leaders, we were disheartened by the recent reaction to local protests in light of national events after the brutal murder of George Floyd and countless others at the hands of overzealous and corrupt police officers. Like most of the rest of the nation, we believe our leaders should have, at the very least, taken the time to acknowledge what was happening in the country and around the world, even if the response was a simple denouncement of the misconduct. We request that a Public Hearing be held to raise our local concerns and work to educate and unite our community through an on-going, peaceful dialogue;
- Along the same lines, our police departments have tremendous power in our community and are leaders who must model the way for fairness, justice, and inclusion. Because of this role and their vast amounts of responsibility within our community, we believe they should have high quality, recurrent, more thorough training in community peacekeeping and unity. We request that resources be set aside by the town to routinely and extensively train our officers about the diverse groups of people they are required to serve and protect. This can only happen with a requirement that the entire department and, indeed, all of our local officials undergo thorough diversity, equity, and inclusion training to better address implicit and explicit bias within our power structures. This is not a novel concept and many of our judges, prosecutors, and court staff here in Massachusetts have been required to undergo similar training.
- Similarly, we request that our law enforcement officers also undergo routine training on de-escalation and mediation to promote community peace and trust. We believe any local budget requests should only be approved in the upcoming year if they have these components incorporated into their education and training plans;
- We request that the local police department maintain and provide an annual report on the race, national origin, gender, and LGBTQIA status of the people who are stopped as well as those arrested in our town and those numbers are made public in advance of any budgetary considerations;
- In light of the experiences we heard our brave, local students of color share at the school committee meeting earlier in the summer, we request the same requirement of diversity, equity, and inclusion training to be incorporated into the school budget as well as the budgets of all of other local government organizations. We will also be making this request in a separate letter to the School Board and our Superintendent;
- We also request that a structured and diverse Independent Citizen Review Board be established for the purpose of investigating and addressing complaints about our local law enforcement and public leaders should they arise. This Board would have access to information involving citizen complaints and any relevant data necessary to make a determination and findings whenever a legitimate complaint is made.
We are grateful for the work of the Select Board and all that you are tasked in doing as you help lead our local government. We recognize that the requests we have made will not be easy or convenient. They may even be considered controversial by some people. But we truly believe that with more dialogue and transparency, our entire community will feel safer and more unified and the credibility of all our institutions will be enhanced by these efforts. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our proposals. We look forward to hearing from you concerning these important issues.
The WASJA Executive Board of Directors