Community Conversation on Race and Social Equity, Diversity, and Policing in Lexington

Activists and police join together at Cary Hall to address the crowd of protesters after the murder of George Floyd.

By Denise J. Dubé


A few months ago, four Minnesota officers stopped George Floyd by the side of the road. As he lay on the pavement beside a police cruiser, wrists handcuffed behind him, former Police Officer Derek Chauvin shoved his left knee onto Floyd’s throat. Another officer held a knee on his lower body. Two other officers watched as Chauvin continually pressed his knee on Floyd’s throat. Less than nine minutes later, after Floyd repeatedly told the officers he could not breathe, the 46-year-old man called for his long-dead mother and died, killed by Chauvin over allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.

Less than two months later, a birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park asked a woman to contain her unleashed dog. She told the man she was calling authorities and would, she said, tell them he was attacking her. The man was black; the woman was white.

Authorities charged Chauvin with second and third-degree murder and the woman with making a false report. Other racists videos are now surfacing as more and more people, armed with cell phones, are videotaping acts of racism – not just with police – but between neighbors and strangers, in stores, parks, neighborhoods, and parking lots.

Although the incidents elicited outrage, Floyd’s murder caused world-wide protests and the immediate demand for change.

Lexington is no exception. A Black Lives Matter protest occurred a few days after Floyd’s death. People in and around the Battle Green held signs that read, “Black Lives Matter,” and, “It could have been me.”

On September 29 at 7 p.m., officials gathered via Zoom for a Community Conversation on Race and Social Equity, Diversity, and Policing.

Those officials included: Chief of Police Mark Corr; Police Lieutenant James Barry, who serves as a liaison between the Human Rights Committee and the police department; Town Manager Jim Malloy; Select Board Chair Doug Lucente; Select Board member Jill Hai; Human Rights Committee Chair Mona Roy; Vice-Chair Human Rights Committee Tanya Gisolfi; and Moderator Melissa Patrick, an educator and the founder and principal consultant of Equity Expectations, LLC, a diversity equity and inclusion firm.

The public provided questions before the event, which those attending would answer. According to Lucente, they received more than 40 questions. Corr stated later that he received about 20 more and was answering them all. These Frequently Asked Questions will appear on the town and police website soon, Lucente and Corr said.

“The community conversations are important,” Corr said later, after the virtual meeting. “In hindsight, it should have been taking place long ago. George Floyd’s murder was a horrible video to watch. His death over an alleged $20 bill should never have happened. It was grossly excessive force that made the public and police professionals very angry.”

Lucente opened the meeting by referencing Floyd’s death and telling those watching that this is the first of many conversations to help Lexington move forward.

“I want to acknowledge that individuals in our community are not feeling respected, and some are feeling marginalized. These are our friends, these are our neighbors, and it’s a problem,” Lucente said. “Our objective this evening is to create a space for dialogue with our town government and police department to advance understanding and provide a meaningful pathway forward on racial and social justice issues.”

Patrick asked Corr the first question. “Would you please share what steps the Lexington Police department have been taking already toward promoting equity and policing in Lexington?”

“We want to work with community groups, and we want to attend cultural events or work with the Human Rights Committee or Select Board,” Corr said. “We want to work with those who have suggestions who want to help us get better.”

Patrick, too referenced the murder of Floyd and noted “the civil unrest that has been going on and the obvious anti-black racism in this country. It’s clear we have to do things differently. Things have to change,” she said. Patrick then asked about the Police Department oversight, which Hai explained, is provided by the town manager, with input from Chief Corr. Similar questions appeared throughout the ninety-minute meeting. Although there were no examples, Patrick noted there are problems in town, and there have been complaints.

“A lot of the questions that did come in were in reference to what Doug alluded to in terms of not feeling safe or feeling marginalized in Lexington. A lot of the questions have to do with racial profiling,” Patrick said.

“How does the Lexington Department define racial profiling. What is it?”

“We, throughout our policy manual, prohibit the use of anything that would discriminate against somebody, and we require that everyone is treated fairly and equitably,” Corr said. Policies, he said, are online. Town Manager Jim Malloy indicated that the town will be doing a comprehensive review of all bylaws, policies, and regulations in Lexington to make sure they are unbiased and anti-discriminatory.

He also emphasized later that, according to Massachusetts law, an officer must have cause to detain a person or stop a vehicle. Later he clarified further. If that’s not happening, he said, then Lexingtonians should call him. If they don’t feel satisfied by his response, he urged citizens to contact the Select Board or the Town Manager or both.

“In a nutshell, a police officer must articulate reasonable grounds to make a motor vehicle stop. They can’t do it on a hunch. They can’t do it out of curiosity. A traffic violation is considered reasonable grounds. An officer must be able to articulate why they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has, is, or is about to be committed for them to make a stop.”

If that isn’t happening, he again asked that people reach out. “We encourage the public, who may have a complaint, to contact the police department in a timely manner. If people are uncomfortable speaking directly with the police, they can call, write, or email the Town Manager’s office, the Select Board, or the Human Rights Committee,” Corr said. Lucente echoed that. The Human Rights Committee is taking a leadership position in town to help educate and mediate equity issues. Although they currently operate without a budget, they have developed collaborative relationships and effective programming with the help of other agencies in Lexington. All the departments are directly linkable on the town website: (

Sean Osborne, formerly the Chair of the Human Rights Committee and co-creator of the Association of Black Citizens of Lexington (ABCL), founded three years ago, spoke after the meeting. He has reached out to the police department and hopes that they will work together in the future. The ABCL, Corr, and Lucente have held meetings already, he said.

Osborne only watched a portion of the meeting and was, so far, skeptical and noted, as did everyone else, that there are incidents in Lexington.

However, if everyone works together, he hopes to see change. “I don’t do what I do without hope,” Osborne said.

Share this: