What started out as a peaceful demonstration that allowed our fellow Americans to exercise their first amendment rights, ended in tragedy. One person decided that he would end the lives of five and injure seven, all officers of the law. It is heartbreaking that now America is being viewed as a country that resorts to violence to communicate differences, when America was once viewed as the example society that embraces democracy.
During my first campaign in 2010 for the Mayor of the Great City of Fontana I was clear that safety is my number one priority. Every individual I spoke with, every mailer sent, and at any public forum I assured the residents that safety is my greatest concern. If a city lacks safety it halts our ability to grow, costs go up, people move away, land values decrease, businesses will relocate, there will be no new businesses, jobs will disappear and, revenues will decline.
To keep Fontana moving forward we all need to feel safe. The way we achieve that safety is not only by fighting crime, but allowing ourselves to respect each other as fellow Americans. Unfortunately, more and more each day we are confronted with the violence in our country. Last week’s attack on the Dallas Police Officers was another reminder that our country is changing. Now, people are living fearful and making judgements based on appearance or speech and not taking the time to get to know the person. We can change this together!
We are at that point in our country where it is time to talk. Let’s sit down and communicate with each other about our feelings and issues. Race is an issue. It’s that dark shadow that creeps along the walls of the court houses, hospitals, schools and, even police stations. With active communication we can drive those shadows back into the crevices and one day we won’t have to see or experience racism.
“Someday we’ll be together” is the title of a song from Diana Ross and the Supremes and I’ve used these song lyrics in a previous article to promote how we must as citizens leave our prejudices at the door of City Hall and enter with a “One Fontana” message. We must engage in conversation and change attitudes toward our relationships with not only the police, but the population at large. Until we begin to see each other as Americans and fully embrace our personal responsibility for our safety, we will continue to see these heinous acts. Much has changed over the years in our communities, but more is needed to eliminate all violence.
I’m proud of Fontana. During the wake of tragedy all over the nation, our citizens have made a point of reaching out and thanking our officers for their service and that gives us hope. Many of you have asked to talk and are seeing the importance of communicating with each other. The Dallas Police Department serves as a model for Community Policing and yet this incident fell right on their doorstep. They have been acknowledged by many for the outstanding outreach they do in the entire community of Dallas. Once again, I must remind everyone in Fontana how important it is to talk and develop relationships with each other, especially our safety personnel.
The Fontana Police Department is committed to protecting our community through training and building relationships. It starts with extensive training for every officer and support staff ensuring you as a citizen are protected. Training is ongoing for the length of their careers. Building community relationships is also a core value of the Fontana Police Department. Fontana PD coordinates programs such as the Explorers and Cadets, which provide wonderful exposure to our youth who aspire to wear the uniform and serve and protect others.
Faith Based Meetings provide direct contact between our Police Chief and the Pastors of various faiths. These meetings develop personal relationships and help with understanding the needs of the members they serve. Community meetings led by our Police Department happen quarterly in all areas of the city so residents can express concerns and police staff respond and share safety information. In addition, our Police and Fire are part of every outreach program provided to the citizens by our city. The goal is to develop trust and a comfort level with all residents.
Fontana is working together. I would like to thank all citizens that took the time this week to show our officers that they support their efforts to keep us all safe. It’s not our intent to just show up when there is an incident, we must start to have those conversations and allow everyone to understand that we are a team. I will be visiting churches throughout our community in the coming weeks and when available I will bring either our Chief of Police or a designated representative to assist in those conversations. If you are planning events that provide opportunities for those conversations, don’t hesitate to invite me to assist your efforts.
Fortunately, this process is not new to our city. As recent as two months ago we visited Bethel AME Church and had great conversations between the youth of the church and our Police officers. I’m sure perceptions on all sides have changed due to the ability to have those conversations. We are “One Fontana” and the only way we all remain safe is to work together. Through active communication and understanding, our future is bright.