By Quoron Walker
contact the reporter Minority Groups Central Connecticut State University M. Saud Anwar Civil and Human Rights
A proactive discussion on race and traffic stops by South Windsor police Department.
On March 11, The South Windsor Public Library’s Friends Room was filled with residents, police officers, and government officials to discuss police and race relations. At the public community forum, a report from Central Connecticut State University was presented, which revealed a high percentage of minority drivers had been stopped by police in South Windsor, compared to white drivers.
“Racial division still exists in America,” said keynote speaker Tanya Hughes, executive director for the Connecticut Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities. “We must first recognize and acknowledge that it exists, and then make efforts to change this reality through our action, our attitudes, and, where necessary, the enactments of the laws.”
The traffic stop data was collected from October 2013 to May 2014 on Route 5, Buckland Road, and Sullivan Avenue.
The data presented by Police Chief Matthew Reed showed that 4.7 percent of South Windsor residents are black and 83 percent are white. The data from CCSU revealed that black drivers make up 17.2 percent of traffic stops in the town, compared to the state average of 14.2 percent.
Other towns that were above state average for the number of black drivers pulled over include East Hartford, Manchester, Vernon, Windsor, Hartford and Bloomfield, according to the report.
Reed said he does accept the statistics and acknowledges that there needs to be some type of change, and that the numbers need to be analyzed more, but he said doesn’t think that there is an issue in the town.
“South Windsor doesn’t believe the officers are biased,” Reed said.
Some members of the public weren’t pleased with Reed’s statements.
“In order to be effective, you have to be an effective leader, which means you can’t tolerate certain behavior,” Juliet Little said. “The public doesn’t need to know you have a problem officer. Deal with it in the department. That’s how you protect the community.”
Some may feel that the numbers don’t reflect their community, Reed said.
“Obviously we know that the people that drive in our community aren’t just South Windsor residents,” he said. “We have some roads that are heavily traveled by people from throughout the region.” He added that many of the drivers travel to shopping areas in Evergreen Walk and Buckland Hills, and many may be coming from and going to towns connected by I-291.
There was also a panel discussion that welcomed comments and questions from the public. The panel included Reed; Hughes; Alphonse Wright, chair of the Connecticut African American Affairs Commission; and David McGuire, attorney for the Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union.
One of the questions asked the panel about hiring minorities to the police force. There are currently no black officers on the SWPD.
Reed said that this topic has been brought to him frequently, but his response was that he believes it is fairly easy for anyone to apply to the force in today’s world, due to the internet.
“If a person can’t figure it out, it begins to question their ability to go through the training and actually perform the job, because it is a relatively simple process,” he said. “I do think it would be great to have more black males, black females, and Hispanics. Our strength is in our diversity.”
Wright suggested that South Windsor could utilize more avenues and organizations to reach out to minorities to present the opportunity to get a diverse pool of applicants. He said issues like this have to do with cultural competencies.
“If you’re used to doing something a certain way, you’ll know to do it. But if you’re not used to doing something a certain way, you’re not going to know how to do it,” he said. “It has nothing to do with intelligence.”
No decisions or resolutions were made as a result of the forum, but Mayor Saud Anwar said he thinks the town is headed in the right direction.
“It’s good that we opened this dialogue so that we as a community build harmony amongst each other, and not become what some of the other parts of the country have become,” Anwar said.
The full CCSU report will be released on April 2.
Copyright © 2015, Hartford Courant
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