Diversity Update: An Open Letter from Police Chief Robert Bongiorno

Editor’s Note: The following letter from Bedford’s Police Chief Robert Bongiorno was sent to members of the Bedford Jewish Community and the Bedford Clergy Association.

Chief Robert Bongiorno of the Bedford Police Department - Image (c) JMcCT, 2013
Chief Robert Bongiorno of the Bedford Police Department – Image (c) JMcCT, 2013

Dear Friends:

First, please allow me to thank Rabbi Susan Abramson from Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington and Rabbi Jill Perlman from Temple Isaiah in Lexington and the Bedford Jewish community for allowing me to send a quick message to you today.

My name is Robert Bongiorno, and I am the Chief of Police for the Town of Bedford. My primary responsibility is to partner with the citizens of Bedford to reduce crime, and the fear of crime and disorder in our community. Lately, some of our residents and visitors have been put in a position where they may feel that their safety has been compromised.

As you no doubt are aware, there has been a rash of anti-Semitic words and actions spreading in the community and school system. This behavior will not be tolerated in Bedford. With continued leadership from the Town Manager, other department heads, school officials, and both elected and appointed officials, we will work collaboratively to rid our community of hate.

If anyone feels unsafe in Bedford, then the Bedford Police Department is not doing its job. Hate evokes emotions of fear and intimidation, it divides communities, and there is no other time when it is more important for a community to stand together.

Bedford is a wonderful community. Our streets and homes are generally safe from felons and predators. Violent crime is extremely rare in our town. We have great schools. And all this makes these latest actions all the more saddening, confusing and sometimes maddening. Even when we, as a community, think we’re doing the right thing, incidents occur and they must be promptly addressed.

I want to re-assure you all that the Bedford Police Department is committed to finding those responsible for swastikas and other anti-Semitic actions. We are following very promising leads and using all investigative avenues at our disposal. I have also met with representatives from the District Attorney’s office to discuss prosecution and punishment options. Those responsible for these acts will be held accountable for the harm caused to our town and our faith communities.

Even as we seek the responsible party or parties, it is not enough to just find the “who.” We must also find the “why.” We must identify any of the underlying causes of these hateful acts to heal and move on as a community.

I have met with school department leadership and have been a partner with them. Our school resource officers will be meeting with groups of students to not only underscore the fact that actions have consequences, but to explain the awful meanings and harm caused by these acts. We will be speaking to both students and parents.

I have also been in contact and will be meeting shortly with Melissa Garlick of the Anti-Defamation League to seek her guidance and wisdom. The ADL’s Associate Regional Director, Ilana Snapstailer, has also been to Bedford recently, working with our town agencies, and the ADL’s Education Staff have scheduled a meeting with Superintendent Jon Sills.

We have community meetings scheduled for April 2 at 7 p.m. and April 10 at 4 p.m. I will be at both meetings with other Bedford Police officers.  Lastly, I want to let you all know that I am always available to you.  My phone number is 781-275-1212, ext. 129.  Please do not hesitate to call me. I would be happy to speak to any of the members of your congregations and families anytime.

As Passover approaches on April 14th, I wish you a very happy and safe holiday!

Respectfully,
Robert Bongiorno
Chief of Police


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Cathy Cordes
Cathy Cordes
8 years ago

As a former selectman in Bedford, I am very proud of the way
Bedford
is responding to the recent anti-Semitic incidents. Long before this
happened, the town of Bedford put together a Violence Prevention
Coalition of town and community leaders, the Police Chief introduced the
Restorative Justice program, and the town developed a Rapid Response
team to tackle an immediate response to such issues. Everything
suggested in Saturday’s Boston Globe editorial is already in the works
in Bedford, due to suggestions from the community forums and the teams
already in place.

This is a community where “Love Your
Neighbor” is a way of life, not just a logo. The true story here is how
being prepared in advance of incidents like this can mean the
difference between “hoping it goes away” and facing an issue head-on to
keep the community a safe –and caring – place for all.
Cathy Cordes

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