BELFAST — The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office has received a $10,000 grant from Maine Community Foundation for its efforts to learn about and address systemic racism in Waldo County’s law enforcement environment.

In the summer of 2020, the Sheriff’s Office was invited by an ad hoc group of county citizens to begin a dialogue about racism in policing and how to ensure Black, indigenous and people of color residents and visitors feel safe in Waldo County. The group of 11 citizens and law enforcement professionals has met monthly for a year to listen and learn about BIPOC people’s experiences, gaining a better understanding of systemic racism, and studying law enforcement’s role over the decades. Their focus was and is on improving public safety for all.

According to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office, the Maine CF funds enabled the group to engage Trainer Dustin Ward, President of It Is Time LLC, in six training sessions around racism. They studied and discussed racism, historically and currently, in the nation’s institutions, including the public health system and COVID19 response.

The learning series culminated with a focus on the criminal justice system and ways systemic racism has impacted how law enforcement was developed and is administered in the nation and here in Waldo County. Community input will be sought in various ways in coming months.

The group’s goal in this effort is to better understand systemic racism and the perception of law enforcement in BIPOC communities, and to take action to improve relations and public safety for all.   “The fact that some members of our community may be afraid to turn to our deputies or do not feel safe when interacting with law enforcement goes against all we at the Sheriff’s Office stand for,” Sheriff Jeff Trafton said in the press release. “The Sheriff’s Office and the members of our group have a goal of better educating ourselves, as well as the community, about these issues and to find ways to reach, listen to, and address BIPOC people’s concerns about racial justice within Waldo County.

“The Sheriff’s Office is here to serve all citizens of Waldo County,” he said.  “We cannot be successful in providing services if any of our citizens are afraid to interact and engage with us. I believe these efforts will help all of us in the law enforcement community be successful in providing high-quality law enforcement services to everyone.”

For more information, contact Trafton at sheriff@waldocountyme.gov or 207-338-6786.