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.