Hamden residents discuss racism in the town, improving relationship between police and people of color

New Haven

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Dozens on Hamden residents came together Tuesday night to discuss a series of racially-charged incidents in town.

The whole uproar came to a head after two students of color were cast as slaves in a school play at West Woods Elementary.

The meeting was part of Mayor Curt Leng’s Equity and Inclusivity Task Force, which was formed after the incident at West Woods.

An initial meeting was scheduled on Feb. 13, but Leng said the meeting was rescheduled, but that information was not released to the public.

RELATED: Hamden mayor a ‘no show’ at meeting to discuss racism in town after 2 students of color were cast as slaves in school play

Days later, residents re-gathered to discuss the state of their town.

“Though Hamden is diverse, there is an exclusion when it comes to Hamden,” resident Ty Richardson said.

Some residents feel there is systemic racism in their community. One of the issues raised included an officer-involved shooting from 2019 that involved a Hamden police officer 

“What we need in Hamden are actual mechanisms in place to hold people accountable when there are instances of racism in our communities, in our schools, on our streets, at the hands of police officers,” one woman said to the crowd.

Neighbors said they love their community, but admitted that there are some conversations that need to be had and changes that need to be made.

“I think there’s anger from time over the last decades where certain things that we’re talking about have been talked about for a long time but haven’t been acted on and now if we’re going to be successful in this,” said Leng. “We will have to demonstrate that these discussions will actually bring change.”

Residents said the town needs to consider hiring a workforce reflective of their community and improve the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. 

Leaders said this is not the end of the conversation, but the beginning.

“I don’t expect anyone to believe words,” Leng said. “I’m hoping everyone will see actions and garner some hope that the town wants to make a real change and have something meaningful.”

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