After Meeting with Norwalk NAACP, Area Police Chiefs–Including Wilton’s–Affirm ‘Black Lives Matter’

Earlier this month protests broke out across the country following the brutal death of George Floyd, who was killed when three Minneapolis police officers restrained him with a knee to the neck. Those demonstrations have continued, especially since Rayshard Brooks was shot in the back and killed by police in Atlanta–an incident that resulted in a felony murder charge for the officer involved.

The Walk for Peace and to End Racism that was held in Wilton two weeks ago was less violent; instead, it was a peaceful program that featured area members of the clergy as speakers along with First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice and Police Chief John Lynch. Shortly after the program ended, a smaller group held a protest walk to block Rte. 7, and eventually held a sit-in, with teenagers hurling words of frustration at police rather than throwing anything physical.

Lynch hasn’t downplayed any of the discussions centered around race and instances of police brutality; he’s spoken out against the acts of violence that took the lives of Floyd and Brooks, and condemned the officers as “monsters” who committed acts that disgust him.

“My first response was the feeling of disgust immediately followed by dismay and anger. I said, out loud, “How dare you!” … I was truly conflicted with the fact of how someone could treat another person like that and call themselves a police officer, sworn to protect your community. How dare you.”

Earlier this month Lynch joined other police chiefs from neighboring towns in issuing a statement in conjunction with the Norwalk NAACP–one that he says begins the “conversation” and “moving [us] forward in a unified and positive direction.”

Among the messages in the statement was a commitment toward “…fostering trust among our communities through a steadfast dedication to public service continues to be our top priority….We are committed to collaborating on an ongoing basis to develop positive police interactions and enhance our relationships with people of color.”

The statement is unequivocal in its stance, ending with the words “Black Lives Matter”:

“Together, we must move from the seat of indifference and silence to stand up and speak out against systemic racism and social injustice wherever it lives because BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

The other police chiefs who joined Lynch in signing the statement were from Darien, Westport, Weston, New Canaan, and Norwalk.

Lynch says that area police chiefs and the Norwalk NAACP are planning a “town hall” style meeting at the end of June.

“We are working together for change,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Below is the full text of the statement released on June 10, 2020:

On Thursday, June 4, the Norwalk NAACP Branch Taskforce for Peace met with the State’s Attorney Office and Local Police Chiefs from Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, Weston and Wilton to affirm our relationship and to assess community needs as peaceful protests ensue in the wake of past and present racially motivated bias and murder. Collectively, we outlined a common perspective and reviewed best practices in order to support the communities’ right to express outrage, fear and the need for change while maintaining a safe environment for expression. Like so many other communities across the nation, we have been deeply saddened and outraged by the senseless killing of George Floyd and other black lives at the hands of police officers, those of whom society expects to uphold the law and safety of all.

Mr. Floyd’s death has led to protests worldwide as the pain and anguish of systemic racism and social injustice has reared its ugly head once again. For far too long, these heinous acts perpetrated on people of color undermine both the hard work of good officers and the positive relationships many have cultivated in our communities. During these difficult times, it is imperative that the Norwalk NAACP Branch, State’s Attorney Office and Local Police departments remain resolute in their commitment in pursuing the goals of fair and equitable treatment of all people. Fostering trust among our communities through a steadfast dedication to public service continues to be our top priority.

We, the Norwalk NAACP Branch, State’s Attorney Office and Local Police Chiefs believe that taking no action to bring about meaningful change, and remaining silent in the face of injustice and maintaining the status quo, is not an option. Collectively, we understand that policies are not enough; they are only foundational steps. Therefore, we are committed to collaborating on an ongoing basis to develop positive police interactions and enhance our relationships with people of color.

Together, we must move from the seat of indifference and silence to stand up and speak out against systemic racism and social injustice wherever it lives because, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Signed by:

Donald Anderson; Darien Chief of Police
Matthew Brodacki: Weston Police Captain
Foti Koskinas; Westport Chief of Police
Leon Krolikowski; New Canaan Chief of Police
Thomas Kulhawik; Norwalk Chief of Police
John Lynch; Wilton Chief of Police
Richard Colangelo; Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney
Paul Ferencek; Connecticut State’s Attorney for the District
Brenda Penn-Williams; Norwalk NAACP Branch President
Rev. Jeffrey Ingraham; Norwalk NAACP Taskforce for Peace
Greg Burnett; Norwalk NAACP Taskforce for Peace
Darlene Young; Norwalk NAACP Taskforce for Peace
Mark McElveen; Norwalk NAACP Taskforce for Peace
Eric Fischman; Norwalk NAACP Taskforce for Peace