My Statement to the SEPTA Board on Police Accountability

letter no. -1 ~ sent

A transcript of the statement delivered at the @Jan 28, 2021 board meeting:
Good afternoon, my name is Melody, I’m a member of the SEPTA Youth Advisory Council, a group of young Philadelphians who advise SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards. The YAC is a coalition member of Transit Forward Philadelphia.
I’m here this afternoon to express my disappointment with each of you on the board, General Manager Leslie Richards, and Chief Tom Nestel for the actions and response to the actions of seven SEPTA police officers, all of whom traveled to DC to participate in a rally that perpetuates white supremacy and sows doubt into the outcome of November’s presidential election.
SEPTA claims to be a place that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. In fact, it has been stated earlier this week that SEPTA no longer wishes to measure themselves based on ridership, but rather by equity. But this statement falls flat to my peers when there is an obvious institutional problem and you refuse to address it.
SEPTA has never detailed any plans to remedy what is evidently a cultural issue of white supremacy in their Transit Police Department. In fact, not only did you not plan a remedy. SEPTA never even put out a press release explaining or acknowledging what happened.
As a person of color, you must understand that an officer’s presence at the such an event creates a credibility issue, as law enforcement agencies work to repair community trust, especially after last year’s protests against police brutality in light of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more recently, Walter Wallace Jr at the hands of police.
Professor Ayesha Bell Hardaway of Case Western Reserve University Law School notes that communities will question the integrity of officers who attended the rally along with “individuals who proudly profess racist and divisive viewpoints.” She states “it calls into question whether those officers are interested in engaging in policing in a way that builds trust and legitimacy in all communities,” especially in our black, brown, and indigenous communities who have disproportionately been harmed by police brutality.
Your job gives you a responsibility, and a legal obligation, to address cultural white supremacy in your police department.
TFP and the YAC are counting on you to make our communities safer and create a police department that we can trust by taking concrete and transparent actions to confront this challenge.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

About Melody ✨
Melody serves on the SEPTA Youth Advisory Council as the Tech and Equity Advisor, responsible for designing and developing digital tools to spread awareness about transit throughout the community.