A new criminal justice advisory team at the Cheshire County Sheriff’s office will focus on building community relationships and confidence in that department.
The team was put together by Cheshire County Sheriff Eli Rivera, as a way to respond to national and local calls for more transparency and accountability from law enforcement.
One of the first things the group will focus on is developing a plan and strategies to recruit and retain a more diverse staff in the sheriff’s office. Rivera says the idea to form this group came after a Black Lives Matter rally in Keene’s Central Square last summer.
“I need to listen to what they’re asking. I need to take it back, and not forget what they said,” Rivera said.
He says he wants this group to quote “call him on the carpet” if they see something that should be different.
“I think it’s that reassurance that the community is safe, that we’re here for them, that we want to listen to their concerns.”
The group has talked about doing public forums for people to ask Rivera their question, and he said he would want their input as well.
Rivera, who’s serving his fifth term as sheriff, says he’s learning from group members that sharing more publicly about the work his office does is - such as reaffirming their oath - is a way to create more transparency.
The team of five includes a former public defender, social worker and community organizers. Rivera says he’s hoping to add one or two more people to the team.
The group will meet with the sheriff twice a month.