The following statement, in response to the issues surrounding the situation in Ferguson, MO, was read aloud by Executive Director Anthony Chapa during the HAPCOA 41st Annual National Training Symposium in San Antonio, TX on December 2, 2014:
The events which transpired in Ferguson and cities throughout the United States are indicators of the deep seated resentment among community members who believe their concerns are not being viewed as valid, worthy of attention, or consideration. Law enforcement officers, imbedded as public servants, are entrusted to “maintain the peace” while fostering a safe environment where businesses and neighborhoods thrive. Special attention must be given to understanding the cultural composition of individual communities. Embracing differences and cultivating sameness encourages dialogue with members and may open avenues for change. More than ever, it is crucial to pursue solutions to the issues that are created when members of law enforcement and representatives of our criminal justice system are not reflective of the diverse populations they serve. Quick-fixes cannot be attained by destroying property, looting stores, disrupting the peace, or endangering the well-being of our fellow neighbors and police officers. The underlying issues and sentiments that give rise to these actions cannot be ignored. It is important to encourage and protect the right to protest peacefully; however, it is equally important to foster open dialogue with community and public leaders about meaningful systemic changes. The time to forge a path is now. Together, we must implement remedies that address the social ills we face while safeguarding the liberties, rights, health, and stability of our communities at large. Establishing police agencies that resemble the communities they serve and protect, from leadership to street officers, is an integral step in the solution processes. A diverse community can be strong, inclusive, and united. “Power in Unity for the Common Good” is HAPCOA’s motto and is strongly supported by its members.