by Louisa Paushter and Hedi Charde

Concord’s Chief of Police, Joseph O’Connor, was the featured speaker at the annual Human Rights Day Breakfast, in December 2017. Chief O’Connor, a resident of Arlington and Chief of Police in Concord since 2014, spoke about the relationship between police and communities in general, and, more specifically, within Concord.

“…our goal is to treat everyone with respect..”

According to Chief O’Connor, since it’s foundation in 1872, the Concord Police have been committed to the belief that dignity and respect of all humans is the foundation of policing. Together with Carlisle, the local police strive to ensure that Concord and Carlisle residents have confidence in them, and that they aim to provide exceptional service all of the time. “We [the police] don’t always get it right, but our goal is to treat everyone with respect,” he said.

Personal and professional experiences have given Chief O’Connor valuable insight into diversity and discrimination. His Italian and Jewish grandparents both faced discrimination as immigrants to the United States. Through his teenage job in the Mass General Hospital kitchen, to his extensive work on the MBTA police force, Chief O’Connor has worked with a broad cross-section of people. Through it all, he has learned that everyone, no matter where one lives, wants the same thing: to be safe in his community.

Complimenting the Concord community, Chief O’Connor remarked that the town is rich in its civic participation. “I was told when I took the job as Chief of Police; ‘Chief, you are going to love Concord, but you won’t have a lot to do,’” he laughed. “They were right!”

However, even in the best of communities, human rights violations do take place. When they do, the police are there to help. Recently, this has included: working with schools around graffiti incidents, aiding the Town and residents around lawn sign violations, and dealing with individuals around issues of hate speech, among others. In addition, with a grant from the Concord Community Chest, the police department is in the midst of giving all of their officers crisis intervention training, focusing on substance abuse and mental health crises, areas in which the police are encountering more frequently.

In closing, Chief O’Connor reminded the audience that “human rights are civil rights,” and that he and his department “work continually to ensure the safety, dignity and respect of all individuals in the community.”