Take a stand on police-community relations in the "Friendly City".

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Dear Harrisonburg Residents,
At a Town Hall Meeting held on January 7th, 2019, Police Chief English announced his intentions to start doing “Community Walks”, a program wherein the police department will walk around town on a monthly basis, through different neighborhoods, and knock on doors. They claim the intention is to create better community-police relations.
Due to a nationally-shared distrust of police, many of us have reacted to this with fear; A fear born of policing gone wrong. That fear can stem from racial profiling, subsequent police brutality,raids directed to migrants, or just a general cultural shift against policing. This fear will undoubtedly lead to negative actions or reactions, which will not positively impact community-police relations.
At a meeting on February 4th, with Chief English, we will suggest that instead of monthly community walks, we have monthly meet-and-greets. We are aiming to have these meetings at community centers in the neighborhoods where these rounds are being planned. Instead of having police officers walk door to door, the community can choose to meet with the officers at a safe and neutral location. This would give community members time to organize their thoughts and go to share them voluntarily, as opposed to being stunned into silence at the police presence at their door.
It will also diminish the power dynamic of an armed officer at your door. This is vital, because said power dynamic decreases the ability to have coherent and productive conversation that could improve community-police relations. It can also create a situation wherein harm may be caused. With that power dynamic taken away, we may be able to have more constructive conversations about the need for police and police engagement on a neighborhood-to-neighborhood basis.
Our hope is that by bringing this petition to the Police Chief, to show that the community is for improved community-police relations, but against an increased presence in our homes, that he will be willing to look at our alternative and realize that doing this outreach on a more public, open, and voluntary platform is the way to go.

Thank You, 

Brenda Diaz-Castro & Gwyneth Rutan