Letter to the editor: Racial equity and the police chief hiring process

Racial equity and the police chief hiring process

During the January 21 meeting of the Fairfield Racial Equity and Justice Task Force, Town Attorney Jim Baldwin defended the hiring process of the new Police Chief. The Police Commission rejected requests made by the Task Force to include questions about racial equity during interviews.

Members of the task force and public learned that the Police Commission did not ask a single question about racial equity and justice to the candidates for the town's highest law enforcement office. In fact, Baldwin doubled-down that the Task Force should stay in its lane and deliver one report to the Board of Selectman in 2022.

“It is not to immerse yourself into the current political processes in town, meaning the day-to-day governance of the town,” said Baldwin regarding the Task Force's mission.

Gina Ludlow, Co-Chair of the Task Force, asked, “Is what you are saying that the Task Force should do nothing until the end? Are we saying that if something were to come-up that felt like it was pressing toward racial equity, that we really felt was timely, we should not try to be involved directly at all?”

Baldwin responded, “Pretty much.”

I believe officials have failed to uphold their duty to the town charter. How can the Police Commission assess each candidate's merit without asking about racial equity and justice?

The following should occur:

1. The Police Commission - currently a body of six white men and one white woman - should consider how they will incorporate diverse voices from Fairfield residents moving forward as they carry out their duty to supervise the police department. Members should consider how they will identify diverse candidates for future seats on the commission.

2. The new Police Chief should share a public statement explaining his values and action plan for addressing racial equity and justice issues in Fairfield.

3. First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, who shared a divisive statement about the bi-partisan, multi-racial members of the Task Force, should apologize.

4. Town Attorney Baldwin should acknowledge that limiting the Racial Equity and Justice Task Force's scope will inherently limit the blueprint they provide to the town.

Patrick O'Brien-Sevilla, Fairfield