Westborough officials issue statement regarding racial injustice and inequality

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Westborough – The Westborough Board of Selectmen have released a statement to community regarding the issues of racial injustice, inequality and plans to address those issues.

Here is the statement in part. The full statement can be read at https://www.town.westborough.ma.us/home/news/board-selectmen-statement-community.

Recent national events spotlighting racial injustice have captured our collective consciousness. Racism is, unfortunately, not new to our country, our state or even our town. History shows us that countless black men, black women, and black youth have been witness to and directly harmed by hundreds of years of systemic racial injustice and inequality. Recent events have brought together a collective voice stating that racism will no longer be tolerated and that our community has a shared commitment to end it.

We cannot change the past, but we can affect the course of the future, starting here in Westborough. As the Westborough Board of Selectmen (Board), we join in this collective declaration and wholly condemn racist acts of oppression in all forms. We recognize that institutional racism is real and has targeted communities of color for far too long. We affirm that Black lives matter. The Board welcomes all community input, and in doing so we recognize that voices of color need to be prioritized as we work together to address racism.

As elected officials our words must be supported by action; action that will take various forms over a sustained period. To that end we offer both information about actions previously and currently undertaken by the Town and further, action items we commit to taking in the coming months.

Current steps taken to combat systemic racism include:

  • De-escalation and anti-bias education are a part of the on-going training program, not “one and done” presentations, for the Westborough Police Department (WPD). WPD staff have received training with respect to responding to people with autism, dementia and mental health issues. WPD is committed to ongoing training to ensure they prevent improper interaction with the community, while ensuring the highest level of services are provided.
  • WPD has a mental health clinician riding with the department on most 4p-12a shifts, with 24/7 access to these services. Mental health issues can therefore be addressed as such, rather than as a criminal matter.
  • A police staffing model that provides a patrol supervisor on each shift. Part of the supervisor’s role is to evaluate responses in real time, make command decisions, and enforce department policies and practices.
  • The addition of a traffic officer position has significantly increased the number of public-police interactions. This role has contributed to a 35 percent year over year reduction in accidents and accidents with injuries (January 2020  WPD  report). Furthermore, over 90 percent of traffic stops result in warnings, not tickets, reflecting the department’s priority  of  safety  and  education  over  punishment. This approach greatly reduces the likelihood of many of the policing issues we are seeing throughout the country.
  • If a 9-1-1 call is received and a mental health issue is suspected or indicated, a Westborough Fire Department (WFD) ambulance is dispatched to treat the situation as a medical issue, rather than a criminal matter.
  • Our public safety teams have access to interpretation services 24/7 as needed, in partnership with Westborough Youth & Family Services (WYFS) and the Public Safety Communications Center.
  • Funding for WYFS has increased more than 12 percent over the past four years, during which time we have rolled out additional mental health referral services, interpretation services, and more programming in partnership with other organizations in our community.