MAYORAL RESPONSE

01027: A Knee Is Not Enough (AKINE) seeks to

  1. Clarify its mission and its aims, and respond to the imprecise labeling as a police reform group with pro-police connections.

  2. Provide a public reply to the Mayoral and EPD response to our initial demands.

As we recognize that spreading our message is important, we also recognize that precise wording describing our group is paramount as it informs the public and frames our campaign and desired outcomes. 01027: A Knee Is Not Enough is a BIPOC (Black, Indigineous, People of Color) led, grassroots, community organization that seeks to transform policing and public service provision by challenging historically biased systems to make meaningful, tangible changes toward achieving policy, action steps and operation that is anti biased and anti-racist.

01027: A Knee Is Not Enough would like to categorically state that it is not a police reform group.  It is a group of concerned Easthampton residents and allies working in partnership with organizations such as Massachusetts Jobs for Justice and the ACLU to transform historically racist institutions that have disproportionately affected marginalized groups such People of Color and people of lower socioeconomic status. In relation to the Easthampton Police Department, our ambitions are multi part, moving from action for now and aspirations for the near future. Our objectives are: achieving transparency and accountability, transforming and refining current structures with aim toward the future outcome of defunding and reallocating duties and priorities of the Easthampton Police Department. As a group, we believe that mere reformative measures of police departments do not work. Reform is not effective.  Institutions of law enforcement need systemic change at the institutional level in order to deracialize law enforcement policy and practice. These institutions do not operate separately from prejudicial assumption and bias—as was borne witness in the murder of George Floyd and evidenced within our own community by the Department of Justice 2017 findings of racially hostile climate at the Easthampton High School.

We have come to a crossroads as a community that prides itself on being diverse and welcoming. Transforming the police department means recognizing that the way that things have been done until now has not worked. Our current structures only feed a system that is designed to criminalize minorities and to target black and brown people.
 
We can work together to re-formulate and create a more humane system, and the first step is to transform our police department. We want to work with anybody looking to improve the Easthampton Police Department, but we need to be cognizant that what has been done historically to address this problem (bias training, body-worn cameras, etc.) has not worked ¹ ², and the number of incidents where people of color are murdered through interactions with law enforcement is on the rise. We need to change how police enforcement is done in our community and nation. We can start by making those changes locally.

 

  1. The Guardian: The answer to police violence is not 'reform'. It's defunding. Here's why

  2. Insider: Officers already get training to deal with biases they may not know they have, but there's no evidence it actually works

 

Having been formed shortly after the Easthampton Kneels event, AKINE has been pursuant of transparency and accountability in Mayor LaChapelle’s commitment to the Obama Foundation/My Brother’s Keeper Mayoral Pledge- a four-part process of police policy review,  engagement with communities, reporting of findings and seeking feedback. In line with her procedural commitment to community engagement, AKINE has provided perspective and feedback.

AKINE’s participation in city council meetings, virtual town halls, and initial meeting with Mayor LaChapelle has been insightful for members of our group as well as elected officials. Several of the group’s initial asks related to transparency of current policy and practices have been met or partially met and viewed as “serious oversight”. However, this is just the first step.

In addition to this initial pursuit, AKINE  has developed immediate actionable steps, short term, and long term goals with an overarching aim to reallocate resources, priorities, and duties of law enforcement. AKINE sees this as an opportunity for Easthampton to reinvest in Easthampton by allocating money in step with its priorities and values as well as providing services that match needs. We recognize that systematic and institutional transformation must not be limited to law enforcement but must spread across all public service sectors— including education.

We will seek partnership with the city government to create avenues of dialogue to ascertain perceptions and attitudes in relation to the signed Memorandum of Agreement (08/2017). Using principles of restorative justice, we also strive to collaborate in the review of:

  • public education practices,

  • anti-bias training of educators,

  • curricula and materials, and

  • the role and duties and continued use of school resource officers in Easthampton Public Schools.

 

Mayor LaChapell and Chief Alberti publicly responded to the 01027: A Knee is Not Enough initial demands of the city of Easthampton and the Easthampton Police Department.
 

Equipped with the responses from Mayor LaChapelle and Chief Alberti, members of 01027 AKINE are in process of a thorough review and analysis of the response to each demand and policy. AKINE is dedicated to broadening and deepening its conversations in the community and is in process of gathering information from the public.  With new information, we will continue our campaign—moving to refine our demands and specify additional asks using all available means.  

Members of AKINE’s BIPOC Caucus are pleased that the amplification of our voices was heard and contributed to the reignition of “A LONG-NEEDED reformation conversation that acknowledges systemic bias and racism with government and school districts.” However, we are not satisfied, nor appeased with provision of information alone. The received responses were perceived essentially as a stalling,‘we will wait on the State’ reactionary approach. We believe that local government has a crucial role and must be proactive in determining how we align and how we address our values—with the voices of residents being front and center. We continue to foster the belief that local government and municipal structures should seek and value diverse community input. We believe that the community should have a formalized role in determining actionable steps of transformation of structures such as the Easthampton Police Department.  We will continue to work with all individuals, groups, and organizations that seek to make Easthampton a safe and inclusive city for all. We will continue to keep this conversation going and WILL NOT stop at “that’s the way it is”.