Last month, I was sworn in as a Councilmember for the Town of Berwyn Heights. This role has presented me with new opportunities and challenges. Serving in local government, and specifically working with the police department, has provided me several opportunities to apply my sociological knowledge.
Local politicians are faced with considering the opinions of diverse populations and navigating complex histories and group dynamics. My community is racially and socioeconomically diverse. In addition, neighboring communities have different structural constraints and contexts that influence dynamics. Differences in values, and identities are evident as residents express opinions about local issues.
Our town is also home to an active volunteer base that has witnessed declines in participation in recent years. This had led both elected officials and community groups to prioritize increasing resident and volunteer engagement. Efforts to better communicate with residents and to increase participation at all levels, from attending recreational events to engaging in policy matters, are also informed by my sociological knowledge of identity, values, and attitudes.
My position with the police department has also been directly informed by my knowledge of racial bias and other issues facing law enforcement. While I’m still learning the details of daily operations, considering broader social context when thinking about law enforcement issues is critical. My own department at the University of Maryland and Drs. Rashawn Ray and Kris Marsh have done really important work in this area, so I hope that I will be able to make use of these connections and their expertise to improve the lives of residents in my community.
Finally, a central focus for me in this position is sustainability – including but not limited to preserving and increasing our tree canopy. I will use sociological findings on the connections between social dynamics and environmental impacts to inform my decisions.
Overall, I appreciate this opportunity to serve my community while simultaneously applying and expanding my sociological knowledge.