There are no words to adequately express the sorrow, shock, and anger so many Americans are experiencing over the deaths in Louisiana, Saint Paul, and now, Dallas. My deepest condolences go to the families and friends of those who died. Their partners, parents, brothers, sisters, children and colleagues are grieving, they want to be heard, and they want answers.
In the days and weeks ahead, witnesses will be interviewed and videos will be analyzed. I will not speculate on active investigations, since speculation before all the facts are in serves no responsible purpose. I do not have all the answers, no one person does. I do have the ability and the willingness to listen to you. As your Mayor, and your former Police Chief who grew up in Norwalk, I can also tell you what we are doing and what we will continue to do to promote fair and impartial policing, good police and community relations, and justice for all people. I ask that you stand together and avoid divisiveness that pits community and police against each other. Our strength is in unity.
Over the past two years, the Norwalk Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Tom Kulhawik, instituted training in Fair and Impartial Policing for front-line officers, as a response to nationwide concerns about racial, ethnic, gender, and other bias in policing, and the President's 21st Century Policing Task Force. The training raises awareness of the issues, and encourages policing approaches that eliminate stereotypes. Our Police Department has also held training for officers in de-escalating critical situations so that everyone involved goes home safely. These are continuing programs.
Community and police relationship-building activities are ongoing. They include "Coffee with a Cop," an open, informal gathering of Police and community members to discuss issues and ask questions; Norwalk's Police and Youth Program, which was nationally recognized, and continues through grants from CT OPM and a private donor; the Police-led Citizens Academy, where Norwalk residents are given a close-up look at Police operations; the Juvenile Review Board, giving first-time juvenile offenders an opportunity for counseling and restitution without court involvement, and A Safer South Norwalk, one of eleven competitive grant programs awarded nationally by the U.S. Department of Justice to survey community members for input on crime and its causes, relationships with Police, and potential solutions. My office just applied for an additional $1,000,000 dollar federal grant to build on this program through job training, counseling, and key human services.
The activities described above are not meant as a list to demonstrate our achievements or to congratulate ourselves: they are meant to assure you that we are aware of the issues, and working to address them.
There is more work to be done, and I ask that you partner with me. My door is open: I will continue to listen to your concerns and suggestions in my Mayor's Nights Out, meetings with community groups, and through informal contacts when I visit churches, neighborhoods, and schools. I condemn violence, racism, and hatred in the strongest terms possible, and will uphold that value throughout my administration. I will continue to work with the Norwalk Police to promote justice, and protect and serve this community as your Mayor.
Harry W. Rilling
Mayor of Norwalk
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