Douglas sheriff meets with library to discuss diversity statement
The mere mention of #blacklivesmatter in a diversity statement proposed for adoption by the Douglas County Library Board of Trustees prompted a heated letter from the sheriff and the cancellation of the board’s Tuesday meeting.
By Tuesday afternoon, the county announced that Librarian Amy Dodson and Sheriff Dan Coverley met to discuss the statement, which Dodson said Monday was designed to say everyone was welcome at the library.
“Sheriff Coverley and I had a very candid conversation about the statement and we both expressed our opinions regarding the intent of our exchanged correspondence,” Dodson said. “We agreed that we both support the people of Douglas County and this may have been an unfortunate circumstance of misunderstanding. The library respects and supports the work of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and appreciates everything they do to keep our community safe.”
The sentence in the statement that prompted the sheriff’s letter was one indicating support for #blacklivesmatter.
On Tuesday, Coverley said he felt the statement required a response.
“I am passionate about and proud of the work the Sheriff’s Office does for all members of this community,” Coverley said. “This has been a difficult time to be a law enforcement professional and can be disheartening when we perceive that our office may be under attack. My response was rooted in my belief that these issues need to be openly discussed in a way that values diversity and law enforcement.”
While his letter (that can be read in full here) concluded by telling the library not to call the sheriff’s office should there be trouble, Coverley clarified that the sheriff’s office would continue to respond to all 911 calls, including those at the library.
“My response to the library’s proposed agenda item was to provide public comment about their proposed diversity statement and to further provide open commentary about how this could affect our local law enforcement profession,” Coverley said in a statement issued to the county.
In his letter, Coverley concedes the arrest of George Floyd that triggered the current riots was preventable and shined a national spotlight on bad actors in law enforcement.
“At the same time, data simply does not support claims that law enforcement is systematically racist or structurally biased,” he wrote. “Despite the lack of available evidence to support the anti-police narrative, it proliferates and has spawned radical reactions such as the current calls to defund police as well as increases in violence against police. To support this movement is to support violence and to openly ask for it to happen in Douglas County.”
Dodson said the diversity statement on the Library’s agenda was a draft. The Library Board of Trustees never voted on it.
“I want to be clear that the draft of the potential diversity statement did not state a desire to defund the police,” Dodson said. “In fact, the library loves and appreciates the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The statement that was up for discussion was intended to express that the library is inclusive and we serve everyone equally. We have and always will welcome everyone to the library.”
Coverley said that the sheriff’s office will fairly and impartially apply laws and ordinances without regard to race, color, creed, sex or station in life.
“We shall honor the public trust issued and shall hold ourselves to the highest standards of professional police conduct and treat all individuals with tolerance, compassion, and dignity. We shall provide quality, empathetic, responsive, and professional service to the citizens and visitors of our community,” he said. “We have a responsibility to provide service, leadership, guidance, and protection to our citizens, who in a partnership with us, strive to make our community a safer and more pleasant place to live.”
No new date has been set for the library meeting.
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