We hear you saying our responses to racial justice are inadequate. We hear you telling us that we need to improve what we do. We know we have a lot of work to do. We need to listen to you now, and in the long-term.

We are learning that structural racism and white privilege impact who we are, what we do, and how we do it. We are learning that white supremacy can describe not just hate groups, but a dominant white culture that has resulted in systems of inequality. We want to learn more, because we don’t know everything. In fact, we really don’t know half of it. We are sending this message to let you know that we are committed to learning and willing to change. We know that change begins with self-reflection and education.

In a perfect world, we would be able to stop time and do all that self-reflection and education so that we are better prepared to meet you at the table, fully informed, to talk about how we are going to change our practices, policies, and systems of operation in a way to better serve everyone in our community.

This is not a perfect world, and we will need to learn as we listen. Change will not happen overnight, so we ask for your understanding and help as we look inward and move toward the goal of achieving much-needed change.

You are hurting now. Intentional or not, existing systems, policies and practices subjugate some people and are harmful to the overall well-being of our community. We are going to start the hard work of changing now, and we understand that we will make mistakes and learn from them as we go along.

We want Essex to become a better community, one that embraces our diversity and is more welcoming to all people. We understand that we need to change. We want you to help us understand what change needs to look like. We recognize that you need to tell us how you feel, and what you want and need to move forward as a safe and welcoming community for all.

We hear you saying you want us to defund the police. We want to understand what you mean.

We hear you saying you do not feel safe in our community. We want to understand why.

In August, we will release a schedule of facilitated listening sessions for you to share your experiences, your ideas, and your strategies.

Right now, we can start listening to you through your responses to a short (2-minute) survey that will inform us about ways Essex’s municipal leaders and law enforcement can best engage with the community. We will use the survey responses to structure listening sessions and, after holding the listening sessions, to help us decide how to develop a plan of action based on community needs.

The survey is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JQR8299.

We are not ready to make decisions yet. We want to change so we can make better decisions. This is about a cultural shift and we are ready to begin. We look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Evan Teich, Unified Manager, Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction

Ron Hoague, Essex Police Chief

Greg Duggan, Deputy Manager, Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction

Elaine Haney, Selectboard Chair

Vince Franco, Selectboard

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