This year’s Martin Luther King Jr day observance will look and feel different than in years past, and it should. Last year we experienced a nationwide and local awakening. It was the start of a reckoning and a ground-sweeping movement toward social justice and ending racism. This is a year of opportunity to make change happen and to move forward with potent awareness of the investments we can make as individuals, police department, and government. There are things that should have been done years ago to ensure everyone’s lives were better and to be more inclusive of those who have been marginalized. There is more support for this now than in any time I can remember. Our City, and we as its police department, has collectively condemned hate, racism and white supremacy. We are actively working with our community to review and reform local policies and practices to ensure civil and human rights to all individuals. We are in agreement and alignment with this important work and the men and women of the Eugene Police Department will be held to the highest standards of moral and ethical character without compromise.
There is community tension and anxiety after we all watched, in devastation and alarm, the events that unfolded at the nation’s capitol on January 6. This was an invasion of our collective house and an affront to our national government and constitution. On Monday, January 11, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent information out regarding the potential for armed protests that could occur at state and federal sites prior to the presidential inauguration day on January 20. The Eugene Police department is committed to looking at pending events and connecting our intelligence with protest organizers so we can provide an atmosphere of safety and security for everyone. I have personally been in contact with our local Supervisory Special Agent of the FBI to identify any potential threats to our Eugene Community. In addition, we continue to work closely with federal resources to follow up on any community tips that suggest any organized effort to undermine our safety.
We are absolutely committed to being an apolitical organization. When we staff a protest or gathering where people exercise their constitutional right to free speech, we will focus specifically on the behavior that is occurring. If it is criminal behavior and would pose a safety issue, we are going to insert ourselves. We take a victim-centered approach, and do our very best with the information we have at the time, to serve that victim whether it be an individual, group, business or this community. The Eugene Police Department is going to be prepared to protect this community. Promises made, promises kept.
Finally, MLK Jr day is not a day off. It is a day for all of us to be present and active in our community and to show up for each other. It’s a day that we recognize our amazing and beautiful differences. It’s a day where we truly see each other and recognize the content of our character as Dr. King would have wanted.