Civilian Advisory Board for the Police Department

It’s been a busy year for racial justice movements in America. Pushes for racial justice have been coming on stronger than ever all across the country, including in our own community. There were Black Lives Matter marches in Kennett, the Equity+Diversity council has been hard at work this year, and a new African-American history club is in the process of starting up at the school, run by Ms. Olewine. But organizations outside of the school are also working in the pursuit of racial justice and police accountability. One such organization is the Southern Chester County Regional Police department, which recently formed an advisory board composed of members of the community.

The board was an idea pioneered by Chief Gerald Simpson of the SCCRPD, with the goal of fostering an understanding between law enforcement and civilians in our community. Chief Simpson has worked in law enforcement for roughly 38 years and hopes to provide his perspective on issues that the general public may be oblivious to. The general public serving on the board aims to explain their outside perspective on policing and provide suggestions for a more sustainable version of law enforcement.

It will be interesting to see how the community advisory board develops from here. I attended the first meeting and immediately noticed a few things. One was the amount of diversity. There were people of all ages and backgrounds from all across Southern Chester County. I met a student from Avon Grove, and there was at least one other student from Kennett in attendance. There were several Methodist pastors, local businesspeople, and others. The ideological differences among the group were vast. Some seemed in favor of almost a full teardown of our law enforcement system, and some thought few changes were necessary. The police chief and his colleagues seemed open and optimistic about making changes, and the discussion remained civil. Both are good signs for the future of the board and of local law enforcement. While the board holds no official power, it is an important outlet for law enforcement to connect with the general public. Hopefully, it can inspire some changes to make our community a safer and more equitable place.

— Martin Heintzelman