10/1/2020 – Exton, PA – As part of its Chester County Stronger initiative, the United Way of Chester County announced today that it will provide funding to expand Chester County District Attorney Deborah Ryan’s efforts to improve relationships with communities of color and law enforcement. This funding will provide a professional, experienced moderator to direct community conversations in every school district in Chester County over the next year as part of the work of the Chester County Law Enforcement Task Force on Race & Justice initiative launched in late June 2020.
The 15-member task force is a cross-section of representation throughout the county including the District Attorney’s Office, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Sheriff’s Department, the NAACP, mental health, community members, and others involved in the criminal justice system. This effort aims to work together as a community to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system and reexamine policies and protocols to deliver best practices to the people in Chester County.
Deb Ryan, Chester County District Attorney, said, “Thank you to the United Way of Chester County for providing the funding needed for our initiative on community engagement through moderated workshops to improve race relations with law enforcement. After participating in over a dozen meetings with community residents, community leaders, and members of law enforcement, it was evident that there is a dire need to focus on communication, transparency, and outreach in our communities. The consensus from these town halls and zoom sessions was that there is a critical need to engage in face-to-face dialogues to attempt to understand different perspectives and build trust.”
Christopher Saello, President & CEO of United Way of Chester County, said, “We applaud District Attorney Ryan’s efforts to assemble this task force, and we are proud to provide support to bring these community conversations to every school district in Chester County. Real change is made when people start talking and can find common ground. Our hope is that through these difficult conversations, real community change can begin.”
The two-hour sessions will include community and law enforcement members, and be moderated by DeVon Jackson, the president of Chanj Consulting. Jackson is an experienced facilitator who has an extensive background in diversity, inclusion, and race relations, and recently delivered a pilot session to the task force. The session included law enforcement members and the community with a mix of races, genders, and ethnicities. The focus was on exploring other perspectives, talking through differences, and engaging in different dialogue techniques.
Saello said, “For far too long, too many people in our community have been voiceless. Our hope is that by providing these moderated workshops in every corner of Chester County, many voices will finally be heard and lead towards long-term impact by fostering better relationships between law enforcement and the community, ultimately promoting safer communities, trust, and respect.”
“While I recognize this is only a first step, we understand that many stakeholders must be involved if we want to make a demonstrable difference. Our belief is that we can create actionable items to focus on moving forward by listening to each other. This will take time, but we are committed to continuing our efforts to real community change, and having the backing of such a well-respected organization like United Way of Chester County lets us know we are on the right track,” said Ryan.
Due to Covid-19 limitations on public gatherings, these sessions are currently limited to 25 participants. The next session will be held in October in Coatesville.