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Pastors: Address Larger Racial Issues In Police Department And Community

March 18th, 2015 · 18 Comments · Law Enforcement, News and Events

In response to a story about Mayor Bill Finch’s police recruitment efforts, OIB was contacted by Rev. Anthony Bennett, pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church, who shared that his full remarks–edited for a news release video issued by the mayor’s office–were not focused on recruitment but rather on the city’s response to the “white power letter” placed in a police officer’s work mailbox. He asked that his full remarks, as well as Rev. Bernadette Maynard-Hickman, co-pastor of Bethel AME Church, be published in full. Their remarks follow.

My name is Anthony Bennett and I serve as the Pastor of the Mount Aery Baptist Church as well as Co-Chair along with Father Jim Manship of Rose of Lima Church in East Haven for Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut or CONECT. CONECT is a multi-faith, multi-issue, multi-racial, power organization of approximately 27 religious institutions covering a geographical span between Norwalk and East Haven.

Mayor Finch and his administration along with Chief Gaudett has worked with CONECT and approximately 70 other municipalities across this country through our Do Not Stand Idly By campaign whose aim is to leverage law enforcement gun buying power with gun manufacturers to reduce the number of illegal guns on our streets.

A little more than a week ago, some of our leaders sat down with Chief Gaudett to discuss a variety of issues, one of which involved CONECT’s joining of other leaders like the NAACP AND IMA in calling our mayor and chief of police to personally and publicly address the racial threatening letter received by many African American and Latino police officers citing in essence that they were not welcomed in the police department.

While this letter was troubling in many ways we look to our city leadership to provide the necessary leadership to ensure that the author or authors of this letter is brought to justice.

And as heinous as the letter may have been, we realize it is perhaps one manifestation of a larger racial issues that need to be addressed both inside the department as well as outside in the community.

For after all, this letter could send the signal to potential recruits even after successful matriculate through the police academy, they would be coming into a very hostile work environment with their fellow officers.

 Remarks from Rev. Bernadette Maynard-Hickman titled “Racism in Bridgeport Police-Community Dialogue”

This press conference is an important step in expressing our outrage at the racist letters that were circulated in the police department.

But the racism in the police department didn’t start with the letters and it won’t end with this press conference. We must continue to work together to build trust and understanding so that we can heal our community, and together make it stronger and safer.

We, at CONECT, have been in conversations with the mayor’s office to do just that and to develop a series of Community Dialogues about policing in Bridgeport. The first one will take place in the West Side/West End in the coming weeks at Bethel AME Church. We are looking forward to an opportunity to gather together, as a community of different races, different ethnicities, different languages–to gather together with the police for dialogue. To share our experiences, to discuss community policing strategies, and ultimately to figure out ways to partner together to make our communities safe.

Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” We applaud the mayor and the police chief for their courage in standing up and speaking out here today and their willingness to sit down and listen. We look forward to the time when the courage of individuals throughout Bridgeport compels them to come together to speak, to listen, and to work together to change our community for the better. Thank you.

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • Steven Auerbach

    I thought both letters were very thoughtful and addressed an issue that just doesn’t want to die. The individual or group that seem to get pleasure in demeaning others must be identified and prosecuted. The individual responsible is trash. Raised in a bigoted household and clearly living in a time warp. If the investigation proves to be a black person attempting to incite public unrest since the Ferguson issue, then I would not be shocked. Remember the white supremacist group in Milford that had a black member? Yup it is pathetic but idiots come in all colors and disrespect has no boundaries. Communication is key. I hope the police dept. identifies the individual publicly. Trash is trash. The saddest part is so many racists are educated individuals, how pathetic is that!

  • Bob Walsh

    Thank you Pastor Bennett for clarifying your position and reason for attending the press conference. I was a little surprised to see you serving as a prop for Mayor Finch.
    Obviously he didn’t get these safe either.

  • John Marshall Lee

    We must recognize and support the full meaning of the Churchill comment quoted by Reverend Bernadette Maynard-Hickman. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

    Our Mayor and Police Chief along with their respective taxpayer-supported public relations representatives are not necessarily exhibiting courage when they “stand up and speak.” Often times the response is “talk is cheap” and means nothing if not followed up with effective and continuous action. However, the special insight lies in the “special courage” that comes from sitting down and listening with an open ear, heart and mind to what troubles another. It is Mayor’s work as it is that of Council people. Is good listening and responding appropriately a sign of courage in our community? Time will tell.

  • Daisycutter

    Bill Finch’s animosity against blacks runs deep. Just ask him about the assault charges against him and his son. He is lucky he didn’t get charged with a hate crime.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Daiseycutter, I appreciate your love of Joseph Ganim but you sound like a racist ass with your rants against Finch. It is embarrassing. I don’t recall seeing your handle until a week or so ago. I am not shocked Lennie has allowed yet another anonymous idiot to be allowed to spew hateful untrue comments hiding behind an anonymous handle. You are not helping Ganim and insulting to the thousands of black residents of this city who believe he is a step above a convicted felon. Who paid the tab for all of the lawsuits against the City? Yeah let’s talk about Ganim, if ever there was a Jesus incarnate then surely he. The second coming of Christ, Joseph Ganim. May he reign forever … NOT!

  • Jimfox

    An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.–Winston Churchill

  • Jimfox

    Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.–Winston Churchill

    Read more at www .brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/winston_churchill_4.html

    • John Marshall Lee

      Foxes, when they cannot reach the grapes, say they are not ripe.
      A fox never goes so far but what his tail will follow him.
      A fox does not smell his own stench.
      (Proverbs from the American side of the pond.) Time will tell.

      • Jimfox

        This Fox has a longing for grapes:
        He jumps, but the bunch still escapes.
        So he goes away sour;
        And, ’tis said, to this hour;
        Declares that he’s no taste for grapes.

  • Daisycutter

    Mayor Finch will go down in history as the mayor who fired the most African Americans.

  • city hall smoker

    Mayor Finch took Reverend Bennett’s remarks out of context and used them for his own benefit? Shocking.

  • Bob Walsh

    I am simply shocked Pastor Bennett didn’t see that one coming.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Let’s talk about that note left in police mail boxes. Are we sure it’s from a white police officer? I had read somewhere there is trouble within the Guardian organization and there is a movement to remove the current head of that association.
    Where is the police commission on this subject? This seems like a board in absentia, you never hear about their meetings.

  • Donald Day

    Andy, I don’t know what’s wrong with you and Steve when it comes to this letter. There isn’t anything written or said, nothing intimated or insinuated this letter was written by anyone other than a white cop. Why is it so hard to believe a white cop would write this piece of trash? Better yet, why is it so easy to believe a black cop would write this piece of trash?

    As a 64-year-old black man I can assure you it isn’t beyond the pale of a white cop to write such bigoted and racist bullshit. It’s the mindset of individuals like you and Steve that foster the mistrust of blacks for anything white, whether it’s letters or the police.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    You keep mentioning your age. Well as a 72-year-old white man all I am saying is the investigators should be looking at the entire department, not just the white officers. Are you telling me there has not been an internal struggle in the guardians?
    The ending statement is bullshit and it’s postings like yours that foster distrust of whites for anything black including this letter that was sent.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Here is the date the Guardians article appeared on OIB 12/19/14, it was titled Ballot Rigged election split Guardian. Here is a quote from the article:
    “I don’t know if I’d call it a power struggle, more like a democracy turning into a dictatorship with some righteous people trying to prevent that from happening. There should have been elections last year and the current (un)President stalled them to stay in power to suit his own personal needs. He also stalled an attempted election where ballots should have been counted last night, that situation will be resolved.” With the problems they are having and a post calling the leader of the Guardians the $200,000 man it is conceivable the comments came from within, I am just saying look everywhere.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Here are remarks by Guardian President Blackwell that may give a hint as to where the racist letter came from.
    “Blackwell, who did not return phone calls seeking further comment, also questioned whether a section of the draft contract eliminates the ability to file a grievance over “unjust discrimination.”
    It is a sensitive issue, given that State Police are investigating racist letters targeting black officers that were distributed within the department.

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