Dear Fairfax Community,
I’ve been sitting with my large sheet of white poster board and my paints, ruminating over what I want to paint on my sign to hold in the Parkade, and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. I’ve been holding signs made by other people, one by a white Drake High School student stating “We demand justice” one by a black Drake High School student stating: “Being black is not a crime”. All around me the shouts, “Silence equals violence” What should my sign say?
I watched the movie “Detroit” last night. During the 1967 race riots Government Officials denounced violent acts against black people – “We condemn these acts of violence”, “We are appalled by these atrocities, but there is cause for hope”, “Change takes time”. Look back over 6 decades since the Detroit riots, and consider the incidents of injustice in violence against communities of color and ask: Do we have cause for hope? What has changed? Statements from many of those of us in elected positions today are verbatim to those made in 1967.
When something is systemic, when there is a pandemic, no body is excused from the table. We are experiencing the largest collision of calamities that many of us have witnessed in our lifetimes. For Covid 19, we rightly pour fiscal resources into vaccines and any means to protect our communities and ourselves, because we have been told that we are all equally vulnerable to infection. We power forward to wipe out the Covid 19 pandemic as no one is guaranteed immunity. Where is our response to chronic racism and discrimination? Do we feel immune?
As a white woman and Mayor of a predominantly white town, I am a product of White Privilege. No matter what I do, I have been given a head start over my counterparts of color. I was awarded arbitrary power at birth.
Hoping and waiting for change is grossly insufficient. We must earn the right to hope. Each of us must realize that just like Covid, we are not immune. In fact, without deep introspection, knowledge and honesty about the roots of our power structures and institutionalized racism, society will never change. White privilege is an invisible veil which many of us are only now becoming aware of. Hence, no Covid style emergency response to racism, no paradigm shift.
In the recent edition of the Tam High School News, Mikyla Willams writes of white fragility: “You need to replace sympathy with rapport. People of color don’t need pity. What you can do is become aware of the subtle racism that happens on a daily basis and work on helping other white people to do the same.”
I hope we will use this time of pandemic and the tragic killing of George Floyd to communicate with one another. It is still vital that we remind each other to show respect by physically distancing and wearing masks, while at the same time, we must lift the veil of white privilege to know that it will take each of us to make the change that is needed.
The world has dramatically changed for all of us since I became the Mayor last December. I want to express my gratitude to our dedicated staff who have worked long nights and weekends to keep Fairfax going. It has been all hands on deck since March and each day brings new demands. They have my utmost respect.
The Town of Fairfax’s Police Department has the most diverse force in the County. Chief Chris Morin has served our community for 20 years and has earned our support and trust. The Chief and I have spent the past several days in close communication. We have collaborated completely throughout one of the most devastating incidents of racial violence at the hands of Law Enforcement Officers. I am grateful for his partnership. Please see Chief Morin’s statement below.
Mayor of Fairfax
SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF
June 4th, 2020
To the Fairfax Community,
I have been struggling with the proper way to express my personal thoughts and feelings of sadness over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota who died at the hands of Police Officers. While I am not familiar with the policies and practices of agencies in Minnesota, I was confident that what I saw officers do was not an approved arrest technique. My assumptions were quickly confirmed when police officials said just that. My condolences go out to the entire Floyd family and all of those who are currently grieving.
I remain disgusted with what I saw. Common sense tells everyone this was wrong. This reflects poorly on all of us within the Law Enforcement Community. Officers in Minnesota restrained Mr. Floyd for upwards of 8 minutes. One officer held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck who pleaded with them repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe. None of the officers interceded or changed their tactics. That was wrong. I have been a Police Officer for 37 years, having worked prior for the San Rafael Police and Oakland Police Departments. I have been involved in countless arrests where a person had to be restrained. I have never used such a technique nor seen any other officer do so. This is not how we are trained.
As a police supervisor and now Police Chief, I impart upon my officers to always treat everyone with the utmost respect, even those who may not be cooperative. All police contact, be it positive or negative, should end with all persons treated fairly with dignity and respect. During an arrest, we only use approved and trained tactics. We only use the amount of force necessary to complete that arrest and nothing more. I won’t stand for any mistreatment of anyone we encounter. I can assure you that my officers understand this as well and subscribe to my philosophy. Lieutenant Rico Tabaranza and I are meeting with each officer and having dialog on this topic. These conversations include the re-enforcement of our training tactics and what we expect of them here in the Fairfax community.
I have been asked countless times since this incident if the Fairfax Police Department has Body Worn Cameras. The answer is yes. With our Town Council’s support, these were funded and implemented in January, 2015. They capture all encounters officers have in just about every citizen contact and always capture every aspect of an individual’s arrest.
I understand the outrage and frustration with this and many other incidents and deaths that have occurred at the hands of Law Enforcement officers. I agree that there have been far too many of these incidents. I also know that the vast majority of our Law Enforcement officers across the nation are fine dedicated public servants trying to do the right thing. Tragic events such as this are disheartening. They are damaging to the Law Enforcement Community. Every negative incident sets us all back, and it takes far too much time to re-build trust in our communities.
I stand by all those who are peacefully protesting. Fairfax is a very unique community and I appreciate the opportunity to have worked here for the past 20 years, with the past 10 years as your Police Chief. We have a remarkable group of diverse men and women who are your officers, dispatchers and support staff. They come to work every day and make a positive impact in our community. As always, I thank you for your past and continued support of the entire Fairfax Police Department and me.
Christopher Morin, Chief of Police