As we express our condolences to the families regarding the events this week involving the fatal police shootings of Afro-American civilians in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota that culminated in an atrocious attack and slaying of five (5) of our Police Officers and wounding seven (7) others in Dallas, Texas we are all numb from shock. It goes without saying that racial division cannot continue to prevail in our country!
It points out how fortunate we are in Watertown to have the brave men and women in blue who protect us 365 days a year; day in and day out. In 1989, I was contacted by our late Police Chief Robert Kelly. He proudly outlined to me the racial sensitivity training program that had been implemented by his department in Watertown.
While the city of Watertown does not compare in size to the large cities of Boston, Chicago, St. Louis or Dallas, clearly, in a small city it was a visionary and proactive approach the department undertook; recognizing the changing demographics of the community both in terms of its residents but also visitors to the Arsenal and Watertown Malls.
This practical programmatic decision, coupled later with the Citizen’s Police academy, initiated during the tenure of Chief Edward Deveau, provided residents direct experience in the full gamut of police work ranging from traveling along in a squad car to observing dispatcher’s work.
These are effective approaches that work; even leading some of our young brightest students to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice and joining the police department after graduation. Also, as a child in Denver, Colo., I remember the police officers walking their beat and stopping and chatting with us as we sat on our front porches. This interaction is vital to the entire community.
It is happening in our wonderful city daily. We hear residents every day speaking of how our men and women in blue reach out to simply say hello and how are you doing. It is a simple gesture but so important! They are there to assist us along with other first responders in our hour of need.
As an African American, I cannot express enough, my gratefulness for their presence, perseverance and understanding of the complexities of their job. Watertown is blessed with outstanding leadership and employees in their various departments. Firefighters, School Coordinators, Teachers, DPW workers, Librarians and Town Hall employees are always helpful and cordial in their interactions with me, and in general, the public in my presence.
Perhaps other communities can emulate what is happening in Watertown and put in place similar practices. It would be advantageous for us to have a special day set aside each year to honor our Civil Public Employees.
I understand that the Citizen’s Police Academy has been discontinued due to budgetary concerns. I would recommend that the Town Council look into their Reserve to ascertain if they might have some room within the Reserve to fund this important program again.
Clyde L. Younger