From The Mayor, Gregory J. Oravec
Our Changing Times
What happened to Mr. Floyd in Minnesota was a terrible injustice perpetrated by people who we expect to do the right thing, every time, in carrying out one of government’s most important missions—to protect and serve. I believe that the photographic and video evidence are so explicit and antithetical to that mission and our ideals that that they have provoked a strong and visceral reaction; and I am not sure how any principled person could look at the video or photographs and not be deeply bothered. To anyone not already moved, I would say, imagine if that was you, or your son, or your dad and then remember that this is just the latest example of a black person being treated differently by someone in law enforcement and society in general, that it is not an isolated incident. Under these circumstances, I think we must understand why so many Americans have been moved to assemble, protest and demand change. In fact, I would encourage each of us to answer this call in our own way because we should all want justice and not just in this case. We should all want a more just society for all people.
To this end, it is important for us to apply the proper means. We should invoke the great American tradition of, and our Constitutional rights to, peaceable assembly, free speech and the redress of grievances, or at least support the rights of our fellow Americans who do. We should vote; and, more than that, we should be actively involved in implementing the changes that bring our communities closer to living up to our ideals. One of the great things about local governments, like PSL, is that you can be involved. You can make a difference. You can be the difference.
What we cannot do is engage in, justify or even tolerate violence, rioting and looting. They are destructive and hateful manifestations of hurt, a desire for change or something worse. They take us further from our ideals and our goals for our communities and our United States of America. No. We cannot succeed in fighting for what’s right by committing new wrongs, which is why I am happy to report—so far, so good on the Treasure Coast and in Port St. Lucie.
To date, there have been several peaceful demonstrations on the Treasure Coast outside the boundaries of the City but within our metropolitan area, with more likely to follow. I trust that our Police Department, City Manager and administrative team will continue to monitor the situation and social media as part of carrying out the Police Department’s mission, which includes both protecting and preserving the rights of individuals as guaranteed by the Constitution and working with the community to prevent and eliminate conditions that threaten our community’s right to be secure. In this situation, I believe this means allowing and even facilitating a protest and also doing everything we can to ensure that it stays peaceable and being ready to protect and serve everyone the right way if emotion and/or bad actors bend the protest towards violence.
As to how these protests and the ensuing movement apply directly to our City of Port St. Lucie government and the PSLPD, I would be happy to hear from you and would especially appreciate informed constructive input (the more specific, the better). In my experience, like any city, we have our problems, biases, and opportunities for improvement. At the same time, I think it is important to recognize that the people of PSL are served by an award-winning, nationally renowned, accredited police department, whose hardworking men and women have demonstrated a longstanding dedication to customer service, community policing and the highest professional standards. As you may know, our officers are trained in de-escalation, implicit bias and many other best practices in the hopes of delivering the best possible outcomes to all concerned. Their hard work, sustained excellence and collaboration with our residents, business owners, community institutions and volunteers form a cornerstone of our community’s identity and are responsible for special points of pride - we are the safest large city in Florida and one of the safest cities in America.
Even in these troubling times, I hope the great majority of our residents are proud of our PSLPD and what the Department and officers mean to our community. I think we should be proud while simultaneously understanding that our Police Department’s work is never done; the work can be difficult and dangerous; we can always be better; and, sadly, there will always be a very small percentage of officers who will not live up to our Department’s values or their oath and have to be dealt with accordingly. However, in my experience, our Police Chief, command staff and organization stand for justice for all people in a place that celebrates being a city for all people; and, time and time again, our Police Chief has used bad cops as a reminder that no one is above the law in PSL and “with great power comes great responsibility.” I look forward to learning of your experiences.
In this moment of soul-searching, as we reflect on what the killing of Mr. Floyd means for us as a nation, as a city and as a people, at a time in which we are still confronting hardships, fears and frustrations borne by the pandemic, turning to our nation’s history reminds us that our country has faced these types of challenges before and that when Americans work hard, smart and together, when we live by our values, when we live up to our ideals, we can meet any challenge. We can rise to any occasion. We can change our country for the better and lift up our communities and people. The question before us now is will we do it again.
Here in PSL, we can’t answer this for the nation or even our state; but we can answer it for ourselves and our City. We can stand up for our ideals, lead by example and keep working at being that shining city on a hill. We just need to keep moving forward through honest dialogue, good faith, considerate plans, definite actions, continuous accountability and your involvement (www.cityofpsl.com/strategicplan.)
As you may know, in 2016, Port St. Lucie began an ongoing community conversation at our first Forum on Race Relations and Inclusion. City leaders have made it a priority to keep this constructive dialogue open and ongoing. During the past four years, the City has organized and hosted open conversations and workshops on issues including: race, LGBTQ+, acceptance not discrimination among teens and youth, disabilities, immigration, religious tolerance, bridging the gap between the community and the police and fair and impartial policing. We expect this year’s Forum, which is tentatively scheduled for September, to be an energized and impactful discussion of race and public safety, and we hope that you will be a part of it. Please stay tuned to the City’s social media and website for a date and more details.
Thank you for being involved in this issue and for everything you do to make PSL an even safer, more beautiful and more prosperous city for all people. If you would like to discuss these matters further or I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call today 772-871-5159.