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Salt Lake City announces new Commission on Racial Equity in Policing

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SALT LAKE CITY — Standing at the International Peace Gardens on Thursday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced the formation of the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing in response to public calls for reform.

The new commission is designed to advise the mayor and City Council on "policy, budget, and culture of policing," according to a news release.

The release named the "core" members of the committee, including: Rev. France Davis, pastor emeritus of the Calvary Baptist Church; Aden Batar, director of Migration and Refugee Services for Catholic Community Services; Verona Sagato-Mauga, executive director of Renew Wellness & Recovery; Darlene McDonald, chair of the Utah Black Roundtable; Dr. Moises Prospero of iChamps and a direct practitioner in the area of criminal, juvenile and social justice; and Nicole Salazar-Hall, attorney and current Salt Lake City Human Rights Commissioner.

McDonald said the commission is a good "first step."

“Once the protests end and the streets become quiet, it is imperative that we not lose focus," she said. "We must redefine a new normal in policing."

Mendenhall said breaking down institutional racism has been a "priority" of her administration, "but this priority has been elevated to an urgent status in the past weeks."

“In this time of great fear and mistrust of government and police, it is our hope that this commission will result in real, positive change to the way our police department functions in the community," Mendenhall said.

“I firmly believe that we now have a chance to move forward in this unprecedented journey toward equity,” Council Chair Chris Wharton said. “The commission has the support and respect of the City Council, and I invite all members of the community to step forward together with us in this work for equity.”

According to the release, the core members of the commission will now identify other members to include to "ensure that it includes a broadly inclusive mix of experience and backgrounds."

The commission "will be asked to provide monthly or bi-monthly updates to the mayor and City Council, which may include policy recommendations that can be implemented in the short term," the release says.

"The commission will also be asked to provide a final report that includes a compendium of policy recommendations, budget recommendations, and culture/environment recommendations to be implemented in the Salt Lake City Police Department."

The creation of the commission follows weeks of social unrest and demonstrations following the death of Minnesota man George Floyd and other Black Americans in police custody.

Last week, the Salt Lake City Council responded to calls to slash police funding by reallocating about $5.3 million in the police budget.

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Graham Dudley reports on politics, breaking news and more for A native Texan, Graham's work has previously appeared in the Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin and The Oklahoma Daily.


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