SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Salt Lake City leaders announced the implementation of a new advising council that will make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council on Salt Lake City’s policy, budget, and culture of policing.  

“We see that Salt Lake City is not immune to the realities of implicit bias and systemic racism that are happening in every city across this country and you can look at the data, you can look at the housing opportunities, you can look at incarceration rates, you can look at graduation rates,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “It is time that we do the unpacking. This is work that will focus on the police aspect of that.”

Mayor Erin Mendenhall selected a core council who will now identify additional people to serve on the commission to ensure that it includes a broadly inclusive mix of experience and backgrounds.

“Once the protests end and the streets become quiet, it is imperative that we not lose focus. We must redefine a new normal in policing. The Commission on Racial Equity in Policing is a first step. As Chair of the Utah Black Roundtable, I’m grateful to be included in this process,” said Darlene McDonald, one of the committee members.

The core members of the committee include:

  • 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 & social justice
  • Nicole Salazar-Hall, Attorney and current Salt Lake City Human Rights Commissioner. 

“It is not a commission that will be driven by elected officials or the city establishment. We are unleashing this commission to be a true voice of the community and expect them to inform and advise us, even when what they’re telling us would be hard to hear and even harder to change,” said Mayor Mendenhall.

Rev. Davis told ABC4 News he doesn’t have time to add another responsibility to his plate. But with the commission, it was a different story.

“When I heard what this commission’s goals were and how it sought to make a significant difference in the policing of the African American community in particular and other people of color in general, I was willing to find time,” he said.

New Commission on Racial Equity in Policing poses for group picture with city leaders (June 25, 2020)
New Commission on Racial Equity in Policing poses for group picture with city leaders (June 25, 2020)

Mayor Mendenhall said the City Council set aside $100,000 to fund the commission’s work. A portion of that amount will go towards stipends for the commission member’s time.

City officials expect the commission’s work to take about a year. But the Mayor said they’re trying not to put boundaries on the scope or length of their work, so that the commission can work on what’s needed to make the necessary changes in the city.

“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.”

Rev. Davis said one of the issues he would like to see changed is the minimal collection of data related to race and law enforcement.

“But where there is data, it seems to suggest that people of color are more the targets of our police effort, that they are not designed for protection, but rather for the actions of confinement, arrests, and so forth,” he said.

The commission will be asked to provide regular updates to the Mayor and City Council. They have been 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.

“One of the things that is so important to me is changing police culture and making it something that’s a little bit more transparent to our community, changing the ‘them v. us’ narrative. I’d like to see a community that’s united and approachable police officers,” said Mauga, one of the committee members.