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Race and policing; a conversation

Conversations are important, and difficult ones perhaps the most so.

On Jan. 27, Connecticut College will continue its Conversations on Race series, again in collaboration with The Day and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. This time the conversation won't be abstract, but specific — how to strengthen police accountability and improve police-community relations in New London.

The program, "Policing in the U.S. and New London," will also explore police-community relations more generally.

As many conversations in the era of COVID-19, this one will be virtual. You can join in by registering at http://elevate.conncoll.edu/events/. The program is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On Jan. 13, the Public Safety Policy Review Committee created by New London Mayor Michael Passero submitted its 17-page report. The committee was formed in response to the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans by police, events that set off widespread demonstrations and calls for reforms in policing.

Changes recommended by the committee are intended to: prevent police misconduct and improve accountability; improve hiring diversity; upgrade specialized training; improve community relations; and strengthen human services to address societal factors that drive crime.

Members of the committee will discuss their recommendations. The workshop will include opening remarks from Debo Adegbile, a Conn College graduate and partner at WilmerHale Law, an international firm, and Ronald Davis, former director of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services under the Obama administration.

Adegbile and Davis worked together with the U.S. Mayors Conference to produce an extensive report on police reform and racial justice.

New London Police Union President Todd Lynch has complained about the lack of police officer inclusion on the 12-person committee and pushed back against the committee's conclusions that the union's own webpage, with its occasional attacks on critics of the department and police, is an obstacle to good community relations.

We note, however, that the role of the ad hoc committee was to take a look at department policies and conduct from the community's perspective. Chief Peter Reichard and Capt. Brian M. Wright attended the meetings to get technical questions answered.

The committee's recommendations are just that — recommendations — which do not become policy until acted on by the council and mayor. There will be ample time for public input, including from city police officers. That conversation begins next Wednesday.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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