Select Board adopts modified version of MAPC pledge; references to police removed

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In a brief meeting Tuesday night, the Select Board voted unanimously to adopt a modified version of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) pledge to address systemic racism. The new version eliminates specific references to police, which had been a sticking point.

In the original MAPC pledge, two of the five principles address police, with one beginning, “We are committed to instituting an anti-violence approach to policing …” and another reading in full: “We will work to address racism within law enforcement in a proactive, intentional, and consistent manner.”

In the version adopted by the board, there is no reference to an anti-violence approach to policing, and other references to police have been replaced by “municipal services.”

In its previous meeting last Tuesday, the three Democrats on the board — Amy Ritterbusch, Mary Jo LaFreniere and vice chair Irfan Nasrullah — said they were willing to sign the original pledge, although they wanted to hear from the police. The two independents — Brian Herr and chair Brendan Tedstone — said they already had received feedback from police indicating the pledge was offensive, creating concern that some officers might decide to seek employment elsewhere.

At last week’s meeting, Tedstone had suggested setting up a meeting with members of the police to get their input directly, which all board members supported.

In an interview after Tuesday’s meeting, Tedstone said town manager Norman Khumalo and town counsel Ray Miyares worked on the new version after getting input from police and other town departments. Because the references to police were removed, Tedstone said no meeting with police was needed.

“I think just by not singling them out, I think that eliminated any potential off-putting language to the rank and file of the departments — police and fire,” Tedstone said.

Unlike previous board discussions about the pledge, on Tuesday there was no back-and-forth, as all members showed support for the modified version.

Ritterbusch was the only one to suggest a possible modification, as she noted that several residents requested — and she supported — adding the word “police” along with municipal departments. However, that suggestion was not brought up again before the vote.

“I really like the new version,” Ritterbusch said. “I like that all departments are included, because I think there is work to be done in many areas. We all try to be perfect, but we’re not perfect.”

During public comment, nine residents all spoke in support of adopting the pledge. Brad Fenn and Bradley Kohl started a petition supporting the pledge a few days ago that they said had more than 500 signatures, about half of which were Hopkinton residents.

“I understand the concerns of the members of the community saying that we should just go with the MAPC pledge,” Nasrullah said. “But when we address this issue, we have to understand that it is systemic. It is throughout town government. It’s not just the police. We don’t want to single out the police. It’s everybody. And we need everybody’s help. So if we are to address this, we need everyone in town to come together and to act together when they see racism — whenever they hear a racial slur or anything.”

Said Herr: I think this is a really good clear message, not only to ourselves and our professional teams, but our community as a whole, how we as a community should go forward and address what I believe is systemic racism in our community, as I think it exists in the state and certainly in the United States of America. So I think this is a really clear message.”

LaFreniere said while she supported the pledge, she hopes this is only the start of the town’s new commitment to anti-racism.

“When it says that we are in it for the long haul, I hope that once we pass it that we will continue the discussion as things arise and that we will remind people constantly of our pledge,” she said.

Tedstone said he was pleased that a compromise was reached.

“This is something that I’m glad that we were able to get together, collaborate on as a board, as a town, and come up with a very nicely worded document that we can proudly put on our website and take to heart and turn it into each person’s personal credo,” he said. “I know that with us, me personally, all my children are very well taught on what’s right and wrong and the repercussions for being right and wrong, and it all starts at home and travels upward.”

Below is the entire pledge:

PLEDGE, PRINCIPLES, AND ACTIONS ON SYSTEMIC
RACISM IN OUR COMMUNITY AND OTHER COMMUNITIES

We, the undersigned members of the Select Board of the Town of Hopkinton, as to our own community and in support of other communities throughout the Commonwealth, pledge to address systemic racism, social injustice, and inequity in the way we govern and provide services to our residents and businesses.

Recent violent events across the country, such as those involving George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and other people of color, have revealed that systemic racism—whether through violence, bias, or privilege—requires change. Our residents are demanding it; we hear them and we are listening. Their calls for action serve to remind us of the values set forth in our own Town Charter:

The Town of Hopkinton welcomes residents of all races, ethnicities, religions,
abilities, gender identifications, and sexual orientations; the Town of Hopkinton,
further, is committed to providing a climate of safety and acceptance to all
residents. The Town of Hopkinton will actively address and resist acts of
discrimination, bullying, or intimidation.

These are our ideals. They are our responsibility. We pledge to ensure that our Town government will intensify its efforts to address systemic racism, social injustice, and inequity by reaffirming the commitments we have already made and by making new commitments to ensure that all residents are safe and accepted in our community—especially those who have experienced exclusion, unfair treatment or discrimination from Town government.

WE MUST ACT LOCALLY TO CHANGE

We must act locally to ensure that our Town, through its departments, boards, committees, and officials, addresses systemic racism, social injustice, and inequity. We recognize that we have made past efforts and progress, including in our policing, but we also recognize our responsibility to do more to place our commitment at the heart of all we do. We recognize that we, like every other community, have only begun the work that needs to be done. To continue and expand our efforts, we pledge to implement or strengthen new local policies and actions in our own community and support other communities’ pursuit of the same goals.

As we take action and engage in community conversations to learn more from our residents, the following principles will guide us:

1. We agree that systemic racism is a public health emergency. It must be addressed by strong and decisive actions over the coming weeks and months and by patient and determined efforts years into the future. We are in this now; we are in it for the long haul.

2. We acknowledge that racial biases, social injustice, and inequities exist. We are committed to achieving racial equity and identifying disparities in local municipal services, education, health, housing, transportation, jobs, law enforcement, and youth programming, among others. We are committed to providing safe spaces for community input and dialogue around these issues and we will continue to work together to share best practices and to make progress.

3. We are committed to instituting an approach to municipal services that prioritizes the safety, health, and well-being of all community members as its primary goal. We will incorporate practices that seek to de-escalate conflict, minimize the use of force, enhance trust, foster dialogue and promote community engagement with all residents, especially communities of color, into all decisions about the delivery of municipal services.

4. We will continue to address racism within all local municipal services, administered through all Town departments, boards, committees, and officials in a proactive, intentional, and consistent manner.

5. We will make it a priority to take action now, not later. We will also advocate for state and federal policies and funding to enable all cities and towns to accomplish the goals of this pledge.

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