In August’s Cross Currents, I shared with you the email I sent to the Hopewell Township Chief of Police, Lance Maloney. The subject of the email was to request a time to meet with him, and any other interested party, about our potential usage of a Black Lives Matter banner; to hear from the Chief how this phrase is heard and felt among fellow Officers and Officials; and to discover how we might build a partnership in an assumed shared goal of racial justice.
I am so pleased to share with you that only a few days later Sallie Dunner, the Rev. Rob Gregson of the UU Legislative Ministry of NJ and I, met with Chief Maloney, a Lieutenant and Committeewoman here at UUCWC. I do not believe the meeting could have gone better.
I began by explaining much of the work and intention of our year-long conversation around race and privilege. It was a proud moment to recall of the hard work we had done; the democratic process of choosing such a topic; the evolution of thought and understanding; and then, eventually, the murmurings of a potential banner.
If there was a full inhale of breath before one of our guests spoke, I’d be surprised. There was an immediate response of gratitude for being considered for the conversation and an insistence that the phrase Black Lives Matter, that a banner being hung, that the Movement to Support Black Lives, or any other demonstration in support of this specific effort, would not only not be harmful to the work or spirits of local enforcement, we would be supported by the local Police and specifically by those in the room.
My favorite quote from the time together was from the Lieutenant who, in wanting to emphasize his role as a public servant and his pride in his first priority of protecting us in our right to free speech, pointed toward the river and vehemently stated, “Washington didn’t cross the Delaware for nothing!”
The conversation was full and rich. We heard how proud the Chief is of those who work for and with him — proud of their willingness to embrace changes; such as the increased use of body cameras, acquiring and practicing de-escalation tactics, participating in Bias Awareness trainings, and deploying mental health interventions. They believe themselves to be a transparent department and invited each of us, and anyone in our community, to an upcoming Township meeting (September 12th at 7pm in the Hopewell Township building) when they will discuss bias awareness and de-escalation training with the wider public.
All in all, banner or not, the conversation continues and widens. I was grateful to be in a room of thoughtful leaders in our community.