Police budget covers facilitator's fee

UPDATED, Nov. 25: The impact of Lt. Rick Pedrini's published words more than a year ago continued to echo in town as an estimated 50 people came together at First Parish Unitarian Universalist church on Sunday, Nov. 17, in an effort called "Creating Safe Communities."

AFR logoArlington Fights Racism logo

Rick PinderhughesPinderhughes

Organized by Arlington Fights Racism (AFR), the group responded to questions about the meeting from YourArlington with a statement. It said that this is the first of several discussions aimed at reaching more residents of Arlington, "with the goal of understanding the state of our community today."

Participants ranged from longtime residents to the newest, with the majority of attendees representing those groups who said they are harmed by Lt. Pedrini's words, published in a statewide publication in October 2018. Read them here >>

Visions Inc. evaluating APD

Several members of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, and one member of the Select Board, Joseph Curro Jr. also participated. "I attended primarily to listen," he wrote Nov. 25. "I was moved by the candor of those in my breakout group in relating both their own life experiences and those of their friends and loved ones. Conversations like these make our community stronger." 

The event was facilitated by Dr. Rick Pinderhughes of Visions Inc., the same organization that is conducting the bias evaluation of the Arlington Police Department, the statement said.

"When town leaders learned that AFR organizers had brought Dr. Pinderhughes in with their own resources, they demonstrated their support by paying his fee on our behalf," the statement said.

Acting Chief Juliann Flaherty told YourArlington the fee was $1,000. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said the amount came from the police budget.

The AFR statement said said it had received "a letter of support and in respect of our wishes, they were not present at the event." Police officers were not invited. Read the letter from Flaherty here >> 

'Brave' space

Pinderhughes opened the event by explaining the norms and guidelines of this community forum and how to create a “brave” space, the statement says.

Participants then broke into four groups of about 10 to 15 people each, to give everyone a chance to speak.

"Some came to tell their stories of how they have directly experienced racism, prejudice, and bias in our town," the statement says. "Some came to express their fears and concerns for our future and that of our children.

"Some came to share stories of people they know who did not yet feel safe to tell it themselves and some came to respectfully listen, to gain a greater understanding of their neighbors.

"All were promised that their words would be held in anonymity, that they could speak without fear of reprisals.

"The group then came back together and Dr. Pinderhughes asked for closing thoughts on how to address these harms.

Recommendations

"Recommendations included: holding public shows of support for the marginalized, continuing to push town leaders for open and transparent communication regarding the work being done with APD, requiring Lt. Pedrini to publicly address those he has harmed, requesting that town leaders acknowledge that the restorative justice process in this case was seriously flawed to avoid setting precedents for other towns, and requiring the town to create a clear policy for all town employees about hate speech on social media."

These goals reflected earlier comments expressed at three Select Board meetings since September, including one in October, when 27 people spoke

They refer to a restorative-justice process used last winter in the officer's case after he was placed in paid leave. The process led to his making a public apology, to his reinstatement last April 15 and to the decision this fall to keep the officer on administrative duties. He has been with the department since 1996.

"As this is an ongoing process in understanding how the members of our community have been harmed," the statement says, "we do not expect fast and easy answers to our problems. AFR will continue its efforts to build trust through reaching out to the community.

"We currently plan to hold the next event in March. We hope that you will join us. Please visit our website at www.ArlingtonFightsRacism.com for more information and updates as well as to subscribe to our email list

The town manager has promised a community meeting in Town Hall about these issues this month, but that is expected to be held later.

Cosponsors of the meeting were Arlington's Diversity Task Group, the Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project and the ArCS Cluster: Supporting Refugees

Comments from meeting participants

While the press was not encouraged to attend the meeting and report about it firsthand, YourArlington has reached out to some who attended. Each of the following agreed to be quoted by name. All were asked whether they believe the meeting advanced the aim of making Arlington a safer place and how they believe it did so.

Mary Fusoni, a 32-year town resident

"As anyone who’s experienced a deep betrayal can attest, restoring trust takes time. After the trauma experienced by many in the community of seeing a member of our police department publicly disparage department policy of de-escalation and harm reduction, coupled with hateful comments towards so many groups of residents, restoring trust is indeed taking time.

"The forum on November 17th was an extremely helpful step in the right direction. Offering people the opportunity to come together in a safe space to speak about their experiences, their fears, and their hopes in the wake of this betrayal of trust was a great approach, and it was telling that so many people took the time to come to this event.

"Clearly there’s more work to be done, and the burden is now on town leadership to do it cooperatively with those who worked so hard to allow residents to voice their concerns and offer their ideas about how to ensure safety for everyone who lives, works, and passes through Arlington."

Elizabeth Dray, executive director, Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project; immigrant and refugee health-care advocate

"One of the things that has been the hardest for me to understand after Lt. Pedrini’s hate-filled writings were discovered is why the town did not immediately respond with a public show of support for the actual victims, those who Lt. Pedrini targeted in his writings.

"There was no public statement by our Select Board, Town Manager or Human Rights Commission that focused on how the targeted groups felt, that acknowledged their feelings and asked what could be done to make them feel safe in Arlington.

"An entire year later, it still hadn’t happened. To fill that void Arlington Fights Racism started planning this community meeting last August. We wanted to reach out to the harmed community and provide them with a safe place to talk about their experiences in Arlington. We wanted to focus on the community rather than on Lt. Pedrini.

"With our own money we printed multilingual fliers and posted them all over town. When you do something like this, there is always the nervousness of wondering if anyone will come. So, it was amazing to see all those people show up, familiar and new faces, and pack the room.

"It was wonderful to know that people felt safe enough to share some personal and emotional stories about their experiences in Arlington, in the Arlington Public Schools and with the Arlington Police Department. We heard many people share their anger and disappointment with the town’s response and what they needed going forward.

"I think that Sunday was a first step towards actual healing. I felt empowered and hopeful. I felt that AFR provided the town with a model of what they should be doing. We have a long road ahead of us and I hope that the town will step up and continue these listening sessions with us. It takes time to rebuild trust when it has been damaged.

"Positive relationships and connections must be forged. You must do the work. Last Sunday we started the work."


Oct. 29, 2019: Manager lays out plan to address issues, calls officer's words racist

Oct. 9, 2019: From fury to reason, 27 address Pedrini issue for 3rd week


This news summary was published Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, and updated Nov. 25, to add comment from Joseph Curro Jr.

Did you attend the Nov. 17 meeting at First Parish? If you would like to comment for publication, please contact Bob Sprague at sprague.bob at gmail.com. The question you should address is: Do you believe the meeting advanced the aim of making Arlington a safer place and how do you believe it did so? You must include your full name.