Bedford Officials Speak out Regarding Killing of George Floyd

The leadership team of the Town of Bedford, represented by Town Manager Sarah Stanton, Police Chief Robert Bongiorno, Superintendent of Schools Jon Sills and the Bedford Select Board, speaking in unified voice, denounce the actions of the Minneapolis police officers and mourn the killing of George Floyd early last week.

“Bedford is a warm and welcoming community that embraces diversity. As community leaders, we share in the collective heartbreak being felt around the nation, and we support the peaceful protests of citizens seeking to bravely speak out against violence, racism, and injustice,” Town Manager Stanton said. “The death of George Floyd is a tragedy that has shaken our nation, and this tragedy compounds the senseless and horrific murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia earlier this year. We must stand up together as fellow human beings and take action to defend life and justice.”

The killings of Floyd and Arbery would be unmistakable atrocities if they stood alone. The fact is, they do not stand alone. These are just the most recent acts that the general public is aware of in our nation that have also occurred amid the backdrop of the worldwide and isolating COVID-19 pandemic. Bedford’s leaders have heard from the community — Bedford’s residents, faith leaders, school families, and business owners — many of whom have expressed major concern about these and other incidents of injustice and racism around the country.

“One of the things that really strikes me about Bedford is the thoughtfulness of our community members and the variety of active, passionate civic and cultural groups we have here,” Chief Bongiorno said. “We have so many groups here that are always willing to partner with and — often — educate the police department and town government, especially our clergy.”

Chief Bongiorno, too, has been shaken by the recent events around the nation.

“No one is above the law, especially not someone wearing a badge or uniform,” he said. “As chief of police in this wonderful community, I have made it a hallmark of my administration to cultivate partnerships and build trust in our community. The men and women of the Bedford Police Department seek to treat everyone we encounter in the course of our work–residents, business owners, visitors, those who call for help and those accused of breaking the law–as human beings first.”

The members of the Bedford Police Department take part in advanced training on de-escalation techniques, mental health, diversity, and inclusion, fair and impartial policing, and procedural justice and police legitimacy.

Specifically, officers are trained to follow the four tenets of Procedural Justice:

  • VOICE: Listen first.
  • NEUTRALITY: Be fair in your interactions with all citizens, including those who call for help and those suspected of committing a crime.
  • RESPECTFUL TREATMENT: Treat all people with respect.
  • TRUSTWORTHINESS: Do what’s best for the people you serve

“In Bedford, your police department functions at the will and only with the trust and faith of its community members,” Chief Bongiorno said. “We work hard every day to meet the standards our community sets for us and I am extremely grateful for the support, partnership, encouragement, and thoughtfulness of the citizens of Bedford each and every day.”

Neither the Bedford Police Department nor any other municipal law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts trains its officers to use the violent, dangerous apprehension methods used in Minneapolis that led to George Floyd’s death and have proven deadly in the past.

“The recent tragedies in our nation and the loud voices of protest that have followed are a function of systemic troubles that disproportionately target minority groups,” said the Bedford Select Board in a joint statement of its members. “Every community and every public servant must acknowledge these inequities, speak up against them, and take action to break them down wherever we encounter them.”

It is difficult to process these incidents, and it is impossible to hide from them, and we must be especially mindful of our children, who likely have questions and concerns of their own.

“As educators, how do we address images of Mr. Floyd saying he can’t breathe, or a police station burning, or protesters and police clashing in the streets of our nation’s major cities, when they are on every channel, every website, and every social network?” asks Superintendent Sills. “The fact is, we cannot and should not be silent on these issues, and in the difficult days that are ahead, we should be prepared to discuss the current state of the world with our children. We should listen to them, learn how they process the world from their point of view, and answer their questions honestly and thoughtfully, in developmentally appropriate ways.

“In Bedford, we have an amazingly dedicated group of leaders in the town hall, police department, school department, and among our Health and Human Services staff. I encourage any resident or member of the Bedford Public Schools community with questions or concerns to reach out.”

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