Photos by Charlotte Fife-Jepperson
The recommendations of The SLC Racial Equity in Policing Commission were released in March after nine months of study, and citizens are now asked to review the recommendations and make comments.
The commission was formed in response to protests in June 2020 in Salt Lake City (and across the United States) regarding police brutality against people of color and institutional racism within law enforcement. The commission’s mission is to examine the SLC Police Department’s policies, programs, culture and budget and make recommendations for meaningful and sustainable change.
After meeting weekly with police department members and studying best-practice models, the commission made recommendations in three key areas: police dept. training, policies and practices, and school safety.
To help get the information to the community, a virtual listening session was held in May to explain the recommendations and receive public input by phone and email. Online voting during the meeting indicated that the majority of participants approved of the commission’s findings, which include improving guidelines for recertification of field training, crisis intervention training, recruitment of Black police officers as field trainers, and more interaction between officers and the people they serve. “We want to focus on education and outreach,” said Commissioner Steve Anjewierden, during the May virtual meeting.
Additional topics of discussion included defusion and racial sensitivity training; implementation of an inhouse survey to determine the extent of racial bias within the police department; improvements on how mental health issues are handled; year-round involvement of school police officers who work with at-risk youth; and additional diversity, equity, inclusion, and implicit bias training at the police academy.
The commission also considered body camera use. Findings show that the SLC Police Department currently meets or exceeds requirements in this area; however, it was noted that the department can do a better job of reviewing and auditing camera footage.
MJ Powell, youth liaison to the commission, said he feels the commission has done a good job of establishing guidelines and he hopes to see more feedback from youth, especially regarding school safety.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the city has hired a person to coordinate services and programs between the city, schools, and police department, which is one of the recommendations that has already been instituted. Mendenhall also said that there is money in the budget to hire additional mental health personnel.
Copies of the May virtual meeting, another virtual meeting held in January, and meetings of the REP Commission are available at facebook.com/SLCREPCommission. More information, including a copy of the commission’s findings, can be found on the commission’s website.