This week, the co-chairs for the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice (SACRJ) Paul Tue III and Arlene Lee spoke with Chestertown Police Chief John Dolgos regarding steps needed for change in Kent’s two police agencies.
The demands are part of the committee’s “100 Days of Action” plan, during which time the group has organized and supported those who organize peaceful protests.
In a letter published on June 20, eight demands were made to county commissioners and town governments. These include the requirement for de-escalation training and practices, the establishment of police/community liaisons, the elimination of police in schools and more.
“We had a very productive meeting,” Lee said, after meeting with Paul Tue, Sheriff Price and Brian DiGregory. “In fact, we found that the sheriff made some policy changes in June in response to George Floyd’s murder, before we sent anything. We are going to talk again to go over the areas of agreement and then we’ll be prepared to join the sheriff in presenting an update to the commissioners. It is a great example of the criminal justice system working with the community to make changes.”
The Kent Pilot spoke with Lee and Tue on a conference call on Friday morning. Tue sent kudos to the Chestertown Police Department, thanking them for their cooperation and willingness to participate in real change in the department.
“I like the fact that they are willing to come to the table and open up the book, so to speak and allow us to say this is what we would like to see, and have a forthright conversation. It’s refreshing.” Tue said. “But on the same note, we’re going to continue to hold their feet to the fire. We’re not letting up. It feels like real change is going to come from the latest set of tragedies.”
Lee recognized that Dolgos came into the meeting with an added policy this week around the duty to intervene. The policy change was brand new this week for the Chestertown Police Department.
“We started off on that note and went from there,” Tue said. “It was a very open conversation because he was already thinking about everything that we had listed…so we had a productive conversation.”
“[Dolgos] initiated and said that he would like to sit down again to keep these conversations going forward,” said Tue. More agreements will continue over email between the Committee and the police department in the coming weeks.
The Achieving Justice Together subcommittee plans to restart Zoom chat meetings after in person meetings were halted by the COVID-19 outbreak. This group started a year ago with a mediator in the room to facilitate the conversations and make sure everyone in the room is heard.
“It makes a difference when community members and youth are able to establish personal relationships themselves with members of law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” Lee said.
While the SACRJ leadership will continue to have conversations monthly with the police chief, there is also an opportunity to have community members voice their opinions to a mediated group.
“We walked out of that meeting — all four of us — feeling like that foundation is there so we can have pretty honest conversations about what’s going on in the community, what’s good, what’s not working, and how to address the very specific demands that we made,” said Arlene Lee, co-chair of the SACRJ.
There have been solid commitments made on four of the current demands made to the police, and progress on every point that SACRJ is looking for. SACRJ will be willing to go public with what exactly has been agreed upon.