Like all of you, when I saw the video that captured the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis Police officers on May 25, I was shocked and horrified. It once again put a spotlight on law enforcement and how we interact with people of color. I cannot or will not speak for other agencies, but I will speak for the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

Many may dispute whether this is a Wright County problem. It is. We’re a growing community which will continue to become more diverse. My office will embrace that diversity. As a community, we need to recognize the issue of systemic racism and come together along the lines of human dignity, understanding, honesty and compassion to create a safe, healthy environment for everyone.

Members of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office have undergone extensive and ongoing training in de-escalation, conflict management and diversity to name a few. The Wright County Sheriff’s Office seeks transparency, compassion and honesty in dealing with all citizens. The members of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office are not just tasked with “keeping the peace.”

We are also members of the community with our own families and friends. We all share a vested interest to see peace, hope and success for all. When I was elected, I took an oath to serve all people. I take that oath seriously and will ensure that we continuously look at what we are doing and how we can improve in the future. I want to serve as a conduit to bridge the gap of inclusiveness where everyone has a seat at the table, has their voices heard and are treated with respect. We cannot expect change unless people feel they have a meaningful avenue to express their fears and concerns.

There is no place in Wright County for exclusion or inequity. Our population has grown significantly because Wright County is a great place to live, work and raise a family. It is my wish to have more outreach with our community leaders and civic groups to create a forum where we can discuss these issues and allow opinions and concerns to be heard.

None of these outcomes will be easy to achieve. There will be some uncomfortable conversations which will take place along the way as ignorance or inaction is replaced by education and understanding. Without open dialogue, perception becomes reality in the minds of many and drives a wedge of resentment in the free flow of ideas. Our differences are what make us special as people. Those differences should be embraced to bring us together as a community, not to push us apart. I ask our residents, community leaders and organizations to join me in opening these lines of communication, to have meaningful dialogue and bring people together for the common good.

We can’t control what happens in other parts of the state or country. But, we can work together as neighbors in Wright County to keep it a vibrant community that works in unison, not in opposition. I do not believe that sitting on the sidelines is an option if we want to create and foster a culture of positive change. I want to thank this community for giving me the opportunity to serve you, the people, and I look forward to these ongoing conversations in the future.

— Sean Deringer is the Wright County sheriff. His agency provides the public safety services for Otsego.

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