“We are working together on the formula for improved Community Relations.” Chief Gerald Simpson, Southern Chester County Regional Police Department (SCCRPD).
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minn. was caught on camera by a teen bystander, Darnella Frazier. The video of Floyd’s death was painful;it caused widespread protests and calls to reform American policing.
One year later, the relatively newly formed Southern Chester County Regional Police Department scheduled its first meeting of a Community Advisory Board to make sure we get policing right,keeping us ALL safe.
When I was researching our book, “The Story of Kennett”, with Joan Holliday, I was surprised with how important personal safety was to everyone. One of the reasons people loved their lives here was because they felt safe. A young Chinese American girl said she could walk outside her family’s apartment, above their restaurantat 1 AM in the morning and feel perfectly safe.It is so important that we are safe.
But that isn’t always the case. Even President Obama remembers being followed around in a store to see if he would steal something.
In Kennett, twenty years ago, when a police officer would go into the Garage Community YouthCenter, the kids would run out the back door because they learned to fear the police. Today, the good news is that they come out to greet the officers, who may even know them by name because of years of integrating the police department through the schools.
On this one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s killing, Chief Simpson scheduled his first Community Advisory Board meeting. With about 20 diverse members from the area,he asked our help to make the SCCRPD better.
He gave us a book entitled L.O.V.E. is the answer by A.J. Ali which addresses the mindset that is needed to create a great police force. Then he showed a video, pulled together by the New York Times, about how foreign police forces look at US policing. It seems we use more violence, sometime even treat our community like the enemy, and our police are paid less with less training.
I was so pleased to be part of this first meeting as Chief Simpson is building an amazing organization. There are 1,200 different police forces in Pennsylvania, with that many different cultures. I believe we need to defund the Mom and Pop local, almost amateur police forces,to provide well-trained, well-paid public servants.
Some of the rural areas of the state don’t have any police and the State Police has to fill in. We are doing well but there is room for improvement. More officers need to be able to speak Spanish and of course there are very few women.
Ward, Syska and Greenwalt are all first-class officers of the SCCRPD. I was very moved that Chief Simpson and New Garden Township Supervisor Mike Loftusboth have sons serving in the New Castle Police Department over the line in Delaware. Service is a family tradition.
During the discussion period you could tell that George Floyd was on everyone’s mind. Examples of being picked up for driving while Black were brought up. A high school student talked about her friends, who were DACA “Dreamers” and under a great deal of stresswhen the government decided to start deporting them a few years ago.
I, on the other hand, was more concerned about something like the Johnston gang coming out of the woodwork. But I could tell many of these people were dealing with fears that were real to them today, and not something that might happen in the future.
It was especially good to see high school students there, even young people who might want to have a career in law enforcement. Their questions were thoughtful and comments impactful.
My youngest daughter joined the FBI after graduating from Georgetown University. She really enjoyed her life as an analyst but decided she wanted to continue her education and wasn’t ready to settle down with a badge and a gun. She will always remember her time with this organization of great talent, integrity and purpose.
After a couple hours, we agreed to get back together at the end of the summer, do our homework and be ready to discuss the next steps for the board. Chief Simpson was in listening mode and I asked him if I could write about this event. He was fine with it but wanted me to know he wasn’t doing this for the publicity. This is a step forward, toward a time where we all feel safe and besafe.