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As local leaders, we will work to improve community trust in law enforcement

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown and Kamaal Ahmad shake hands as a group of community members walk from Washington Square to the Public Safety Building in Salt Lake City for peaceful nonviolent rally on Saturday, June 6, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Health, safety and welfare are what city leaders promise our residents when we take the oath of office. It’s not simply mandated by the state constitution; it’s a commitment that we as mayors, council members, city administrators and police chiefs take seriously. We were shocked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the many similar deaths that have occurred around the country. We completely reject racism and injustice and recognize the impact of Mr. Floyd’s death is uniquely felt by communities of color.

The majority of Utahns live in cities and towns and thus the responsibility to provide public safety rests with us, as local leaders. Our police departments are proud “to protect and serve.” Our goal is to ensure that our officers exercise their duties as first responders responsibly and appropriately. Law enforcement ensures personal security, economic vitality, justice and the quality of life that we all cherish.

We thank the thousands of Utah peace officers who willingly put their lives on the line every day for their neighbors. We appreciate the sacrifice that their families make on our behalf. We must ensure their safety in dangerous situations.

We also recognize that recent events highlight that we have work to do to ensure your trust as our constituents. We are committed to do the important work of loving more and listening better as we lead our communities and take meaningful action.

Love: We want every member of our community to feel safe, supported and respected, and to ensure that our community trusts the police. Everyone should feel comfortable with an approaching police officer. We acknowledge that is currently not the case for some Utahns, especially people of color.

Listen: We commit to listening better to understand the concerns of people of color about how we police our communities. Therefore, the League has a task force of mayors, council members, administrators and police chiefs to facilitate necessary conversations. Many cities already offer community policing to build relationships of trust with residents, diversity initiatives and training to recognize explicit and implicit bias. We can always improve those efforts. We support those initiatives and training and we are sharing those best practices with local leaders.

Lead: We commit to finding common ground to improve law enforcement. Many cities are already reevaluating their policies through the prism of safety, equity and transparency. For example, the ULCT board of directors unanimously voted on June 15 to support Rep. Sandra Hollins’ bill to ban the training of the use of chokeholds, carotid restraints or any act that impedes breathing as well as the use of using the knee to apply pressure to the neck or throat of a person.

We commit to transparency about how, when and why our officers use force. We need to find the right balance of preserving the authority of police departments, the due process of officers who must make responsible split-second decisions and ensuring accountability to the public. We support resources investing in mental health treatment and alternatives to incarceration. We also support using data to drive good policy.

Based on these principles — safety, transparency, accountability, equity, training, data-driven and respect — ULCT is committed to difficult but important discussions and actions to improve community trust in law enforcement. Let’s make sure that the proposed solutions align with the problems that we seek to solve. We commit to love more and listen better as we lead our cities toward a more inclusive, equitable and trusting community.

Mike Mendenhall is the Utah League of Cities and Towns president and a Spanish Fork council member. Mike Caldwell is the ULCT 1st vice president and mayor of Ogden. Dawn Ramsey is the ULCT 2nd vice president and mayor of South Jordan. Jon Pike is a former ULCT president and mayor of St. George. Gary Hill is the Utah City and County Management Association representative and manager of Bountiful City. Tom Ross is the Utah Chiefs of Police Association president and police chief of Bountiful.