TUSCARAWAS COUNTY – Local citizens’ group sends open letter to community leaders

(New Philadelphia, Ohio) – “We want to make Tuscarawas County the new standard. This small community can do big things if we work together.”

A group of citizens in Tuscarawas County is looking to work with local leaders to achieve racial justice and reform.  The letter submitted to local leaders this week was formulated through multiple revisions and contributions made by members of the Facebook group, Citizens for Racial Justice and Reform – Tuscarawas County. The group has just over 100 members and was started on May 31st, 2020 just days after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes.

The group has consisted of posts demanding racial equality, asking local leaders to take a stand and support for the black community. The group was initially public and open for anyone to join, but was recently changed to a private group. Founding members of the group indicated this decision was made to allow for a safe place for group members to comment.

Group founders drafted the first version of the open letter and encouraged other members of the group to review and offer revisions and feedback before the final letter was proposed on June 23rd. The letter takes a tone of coming together as one community and working as a team to achieve change. The authors of the letter indicate, “we want to make Tuscarawas County the new standard. This small community can do big things if we work together.” The full letter as it was provided by the group is below.


Open Letter To Law Enforcement Professionals of Tuscarawas County:

On behalf of Citizens for Racial Justice and Reform – Tuscarawas County, we write to you to express our passion and committed determination to see a positive change in this community surrounding racial injustice and police reform. Seeing officers kneel, and Sheriff Campbell participate in a video meeting with Black professionals gives us hope, but we do not want to see that momentum slow down.

We want to work with the leaders in this community to implement changes. These changes include public information regarding what is currently in place that holds officers accountable for not reporting racially- driven behavior by coworkers. We would like to see information disseminated publicly to inform us all about the use of body cameras among law enforcement in this county; we would like to know if turning off a body camera is a fireable offense. We would also like to be better informed regarding the de-escalation tactics used by agencies in Tuscarawas County. What is the process to ensure diversity is achieved within our local companies and organizations? Additionally, many of us have learned that police scanner traffic is now encrypted. We would like to understand better why this decision has been made?

Transparency is vital for communities to find unity and work together. Law enforcement has the undivided attention of America’s. It can utilize this platform to better inform those they serve of the work they are doing internally to serve communities even better. Silence is the worst option. Let us know what you’re working on, how you’re trying to help so that negative assumptions are impossible. The deaths of so many Black Americans have forever changed community and police relations. It cannot and will not be business as usual after this, nor should it be if we are all bearing witness to the predictable and tragic outcomes that result from unbridled discretion.

We want to help make Tuscarawas County the new standard. This small community can do big things if we work together. We know that we are not alone in these requests. As you are likely aware, these requests have been made before to police, Congress, and President Trump in 2018 by the United States Commission on Civil Rights.* The best way to avoid misinformation and inaccurate assumptions is to tell your own story. Write your own script, keep the community you are serving informed and educated. We can work together. We can be on the same team. The value of human life is not debatable.

We write this letter to you as a request for tangible, meaningful change. We ask for transparency in what you have done to implement the suggestions given to you by professionals within your field. We ask for open dialogue in addressing the concerns of all citizens, but especially vulnerable populations. Constructive criticism can and should be a vehicle for positive change. We know this is a process, but change has to begin somewhere. We could do a variety of things such as regular public town halls, consistent information and education being distributed by our local leaders about the intolerance for racial inequities, and so on. Only with transparency and change can we begin to foster and rebuild trust and make our community whole again.

Sincerely, Citizens for Racial Justice and Reform – Tuscarawas County

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