County Executive’s Corner: “Listen and Learn”

By County Executive Ed Day

All across America and right here in Rockland people are speaking, shouting and chanting; raising their voices in protest of the murder of George Floyd. His death is just the latest heartbreaking event that we have borne witness to. Protests have been held in all 50 states, in more than 350 cities and towns including Nanuet and Nyack.

What occurred in Minneapolis was unacceptable. As a 20-plus year member of law enforcement who has had command responsibility, I can find no rationale at all for the type of force that was used and for the length of time it was deployed. The responsibility for this act lies not only with former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who has now been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, but with the three other officers who were with him and allowed this to take place.

These charges and the ones that prosecutors in Minnesota have said will follow for the three other former officers are the direct result of these nationwide protests; speedy action is being taken to see that justice is done. Past protests have brought about some of the most important changes enacted in the nearly 244 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Protests led to women gaining the right to vote and they enacted change across our country during the Civil Rights movement.

I want to be abundantly clear on this next point in particular; protesters ARE NOT THE SAME as rioters. Protesting is one of the highest forms of civic participation; it is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” I understand and support that tenet unequivocally.

Every protest I have witnessed during my many years living in Rockland has been peaceful and respectful, which includes those recently held for George Floyd. I want to commend those who have come out to make their voices heard. We deeply respect the rights of assembly and protest but these rights and protests are only a beginning.

Real, meaningful change doesn’t happen overnight. But when people band together, they have the power to make a difference. You have the power to make a difference. Now is the time to listen, to reflect, to understand and investigate for yourself what other people are saying and why they are saying it. The discussions and actions that follow locally and across our country will determine what happens next.

I am a firm believer that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Too many have fallen into a self-centered trap that if someone else’s position differs from theirs, the other person is wrong. In fact, that person simply has a different perspective, and that difference is what makes us special.

I want to acknowledge the many faith based leaders who recently spoke with myself, Sheriff Lou Falco and South Nyack Chief Dan Wilson who is President of the Police Chief’s Association of Rockland County about their concerns locally and nationally. I learned a great deal and very much appreciate their thoughts.

My pledge to you is this, I will always be willing and am happy to be able to have those conversations, to hear a different point of view. I, like many, must redouble my efforts to improve my understanding of others. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn, not perfect by any means, but committed to doing my best to do right by you and protect every resident of this county.