June 5, 2020
Dear Hartford Residents,
In our last letter, we spoke about the collective trauma associated with the Coronavirus outbreak, and the feelings that have resulted in us all. Four days later, this state of crisis was compounded as we witnessed the horrors of another police killing of an unarmed black man, this time named George Floyd. As already anguished urban communities across the country understandably erupted in outrage and pain, a new set of numbers became focal points of the news: Seven more were killed in the first six days of protests.
The repeated unaccountable killing of black men and women by police, the murder of George Floyd, and the often unwise responses to the uprising from municipal, state and national authorities are profoundly threatening to us all. The sight of members of the press being arrested and shot at with rubber bullets threatens us all. As does the sight of escalating police brutality in response to a protest against police brutality. Our concern about the loss of American rights of assembly and free speech enshrined in the United States Constitution is compounded by the threat of involvement of the US Military in enforcing these losses. This is a historical moment when we truly don’t know what will happen next.
What we do know is that here in Hartford, it is essential that we can rely on one another. We may be moving through our days in a state of uncertainty and at moments with tears just below the surface, but it is more needed than ever that we respect one another and work together to strengthen the social fabric of our community.
This commitment to community was recently reflected by the breadth and quality of the applicants that stepped forward to serve on the Town Manager Selection Committee. Among the 19 applicants were no fewer than four past Selectboard Members, two current Committee Chairs, five people who had grown up in Hartford and just as many brilliant new perspectives. In response to this group, the Selectboard chose a 7-person committee that reflected a balance of voices from across Hartford’s political spectrum. We know that particularly when the town becomes divided, the Selectboard is here to represent the whole.
The dependability of the Hartford community is also reflected in the composition and work of the Hartford Committee on Covid Response, where Hartford municipal staff and residents collaborate weekly to brainstorm ways we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate against the adverse economic and community effects of the Outbreak. This dedicated group would be quick to remind us that as we open Vermont’s economy, the practices of mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing are more important than ever. This is another way that we are relying on each other to do our part.
We can also celebrate the fact that every member of Hartford’s Police Department has received a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team Training Course focused on deescalation and peaceful resolution of conflict, the avoidance of excessive force and unnecessary arrests and the recognition and prevention of racial bias. Hartford has the only Police Department in Vermont and one of only 499 in the world to complete this certification. Also reflecting a commitment to peace and justice, the Hartford Police Department recently joined the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police in strongly calling for accountability for the officers involved with the killing of George Floyd.
All of this is to say that all the signs indicate that when the going gets tough, in Hartford we can rely on one another. During times like these, this can make all the difference.