Worthy Point of View: Worthington police value listening, learning, accountability
Normally, this column would begin in, end with and be all about Worthington.
But these aren't normal times, so I want to begin in Minneapolis with the tragic death of George Floyd.
That incident is upsetting to us all -- police and civilians; white and Black; people of all colors and backgrounds. We understand the anger.
I know I speak for an overwhelming number of police when I say that the reason we became law-enforcement officers is to help others and make our communities better places to live. When we see an officer violate that Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, as the officers in Minneapolis did, we are outraged. They must be held accountable.
Most peaceful protesters disavow and denounce violent looting and attacks on police. Most police officers disavow and denounce brutality and racism.
Worthington is a special place where community members can talk to one another and seek to understand. This spirit is on display at the peaceful protests on the Village Green. When attending, I spend much of my time listening to the concerns of our residents and other attendees.
Change starts with mutual understanding. Understanding is a result of listening to divergent viewpoints, and we will continue to engage the community in open dialogue.
We've heard from the community via emails, social media and in person. We're going to continue to seek out voices -- not just the loudest, but anyone who seeks to provide meaningful input on issues important to allow every member of this community to feel safe.
Listening and learning informs decisions. We want to learn from our residents' experiences with law enforcement in Worthington and elsewhere. We want to learn from professional organizations about model policies.
Law-enforcement leaders around the country listen and learn from each other through the implementation and sharing of effective best practices. The best law-enforcement agencies in the country engage in a continuous process of review. We want to review and share our own policies and procedures, which means listening, learning, revisiting and updating department protocols in the name of keeping everyone in our community safe and informed.
The good news is that we're starting with essential tools already in place and city leaders who are dedicated to racial equity.
Last year, Worthington city leaders approved a nondiscrimination ordinance. This city has long had a community-relations commission to ensure that under-represented voices are heard in our city.
We have a series of policies already in place at the police department to address such issues as bias-based policing, whistleblower protection for police-reporting issues and use of force.
And we have city leaders, as well as members of the police department, who believe in treating all people fairly and respectfully, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Paramount to our success is maintaining public trust.
I'm relatively new to the position of police chief. Many of you have not met me, so let me lay out my overarching principles: We will hold police officers accountable for their actions. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of conduct. Misconduct will be addressed, and corrective action applied. Critical incidents, including the application of force, undergo a regular process of review.
Actions deemed to conflict with our high standards are referred to an internal investigation process. Misconduct, when proven, is dealt with swiftly.
I'm proud of our Worthington Division of Police, and I understand the work necessary to earn and keep the community's trust.
I want the residents of Worthington to know that we strive every day to ensure you are well served by competent, professional and caring officers and staff members. Please know that my door always is open, and I welcome conversations to improve the delivery of police services to the community.
Robert Ware is chief of the Worthington Division of Police.