Newtown Township Human Relations Commission Meetings
This page presents highlights of past Newtown Township Human Relations Commission (NTHRC) meetings. This Committee usually meets third Wednesday of the month.
The NTHRC was established by the Board of Supervisors on November 28, 2018, by the enactment of the Newtown Township Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, in order to ensure that all persons, regardless of actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids enjoy the full benefits of citizenship and are afforded equal opportunities for employment, housing and the use of public accommodations, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions. Read: "Introducing the 2021 Human Relations Commission."
Issues discussed at the March 17, 2021, Newtown Human Relations Commission Zoom meeting include (see the video archive embedded below):
- Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the PA HRC was discussed. This MOU defines how the two commissions will work together on any case brought before the NT HRC – specifically, NT HRC will collect the evidence (intake) and the PA HRC will do the investigation. NT HRC could do the investigation, but it is felt it needs more authority to do that. Since the MOU was passed on to the Newtown Twp Solicitor, David Sander, for comment several months ago, the HRC will first determine if that document is still up-to-date before asking again for a review.
- Need for updates to the HRC webpage on the township’s website.
- Related to that, HRC would like to better promote their educational events.
- John Gyllenhammer – a non-voting member of the HRC – suggested that members of the HRC meet with Police Chief Hearn to learn more about crime statistics, bias training as part of accreditation, and establish regular communications with the Police Department. For more on that, read "Celebrating Love is Love & Diversity in Newtown".
Highlights from Selected Past Meetings
At the February 17, 2021, Newtown Human Relations Commission Zoom meeting, Karen Downer, President of the Bucks County NAACP, spoke about her organization's approach to working with local police departments in Bucks County. See a summary of her presentation embedded below or download the PDF version.
Some background: As reported in the Bucks County Courier Times in September, 2020, Bensalem Police & NAACP Bucks County Teamed Up To Increase Training, Recruit Residents of Color, & Increase Transparency.Bensalem Police & NAACP Bucks County Team Up To Increase Training, Recruit Residents of Color, & Increase Transparency
The Commission met via Zoom on October 21, 2020. Members discussed police reports and collaboration with the Police Department. After recapping the Walking While Black: Love is the Answer event hosted by the Peace Center and the Bucks Community College, the Commission expressed interest in following up with the Chief to see if racial and gender information could be collected during routine traffic stops that do not result in a citation. Recall that when I asked the Chief about this at the last BOS regular meeting, he informed us that such information is only required to be collected by law when citations are involved. The Commission hopes that by collecting more data it can help determine if there is any bias.
Commission member Angelic Acevedo defined the difference between the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic.” Listen to the following 4-minute audio clip to learn the difference:
Guest speaker Dr. Leticia Ferri, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Global People & Business Resource Group Lead. Dr. Ferri spoke at the October 21, 2020, NTHRC Zoom meeting about “Being Latino in the U.S.” Dr. Ferri focused on the Bristol-Myers Squibb People & Business Resource Group, which she leads.Of paritcular interest was the financial impact of Latinos on the U.S. economy (see, for example, the GDP chart below) and among the electorate.
You can view the entire presentation here.
At the July 15, 2020, Zoom meeting of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission, several members discussed the upcoming Town Hall meeting with Police Chief Hearn. Some expressed concern regarding the limited attendance due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, making sure people of color are not excluded, and concern that the meeting is not being recorded. In addition, some felt that the meeting should be open to people who cannot attend either via Zoom or via Facebook Live.
In general, people understood the need for a limited access meeting and felt it was important to move forward with the meeting as currently envisioned. A few ideas were put forward for meetings in the near future within the community, such as at churches and synagogues.
Listen to excerpts of the discussion:
Other discussion items included:
- Residents organizing local meetings with Police Chief Hearn
- Memorandum of Understanding with the PA HRC
- "Walking While Black" virtual movie showing at the Bucks County Community College
- Database of discrimination "incidents" involving NT police reported by residents
Download the minutes of this meeting.
This Zoom Meeting was primarily focused on “priorities and action items to combat racism in Newtown.” More than 25 people attended this meeting, including several members of the Newtown Borough Council and its Human Relations Commission. The discussion focused on several ideas to achieve the goal of ensuring that there is No Place for Racism in Newtown Township and Borough, including:
- Coordination between the Township and the Borough Human Relations Commissions to work together
- Work with the Peace Center and Bucks Community College to host events
- Organizing a Town Hall Meeting with the Police Chief (read "Newtown Supervisors Plan a Town Hall Meeting with Police")
- Address racism issues in schools and advocate for K-12 curriculum to include minority or black and indigenous and LGBTQ history, make an active effort to hire and train a more diverse, nonwhite teaching staff, etc. [As the liaison to the Council Rock School District, I have already reached out to Mr. Ed Tate who is a member of the School Board and who heads up a committee in charge of curriculum. See “Letter & Petition Urge Council Rock School District to Better Empower Students to Embrace Diversity, Not Racism”]
- Build awareness in our communities through the showing of movies and discussions afterward
- Organize book club discussion groups
- Promotion of these and related events via the Township’s Cable TV Channel and Quarterly Newsletter
- Create a public database of racial incidents reported to the Peace Center. Perhaps have the NT Human Relations Commissions set up an online form for collecting incident reports from residents.
- Promote a list of #BlackLivesMatter resources on the NT Human Relations township web page
- Safe Haven signs in windows of participating businesses. This was something proposed by a member of the Newtown Mercantile Group and was proposed some time ago to business leaders. Could be a joint project between Newtown Boro and the Township.
View the video archive of this meeting.
Below is a transcript of the meeting. You can also download the PDF version here.