SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In a roughly two-hour conversation, residents sounded off tonight expressing their concerns surrounding the Salt Lake City Police Department. Salt Lake City Racial Equity in Policing Commission hosted a listening session looking for the best advice to improve outcomes for communities of color.
More than a thousand citizens tuned in and expressed they want Salt Lake City Police officers to get on-going training, mainly dealing with de-escalation and implicit bias tactics. Others say officers are not responding when they call for help and need to engage with the community.
Police Chief Mike Brown expressed, “I really want to listen, and I want to learn.”
One resident told leadership, “We don’t need to be in fear of calling and wondering will they show up. Are they going to help or are they going to make matters worse?”
Another named Andrew says, “SLCPD should also ensure equitable language access, including alternate means of communication for all who encounter police or enter the criminal justice system.”
Rocio, a Poplar Grove resident, took the opportunity to tell the commission a personal story about being terrorized at the citizen’s academy.
“They showed us videos of folks of color getting shot in a jovial manner. So much so that we had to walk out of the room,” she says. “I left that training absolutely terrorized that, that could be me, and that my friends that attended felt the same way.”
Residents said they want a diverse police department by recruiting immigrants.
“Create some kind of pathway to get refugees policing their own communities,” says Matthew.
Another resident suggested police officers live within city limits.
But, Amy Hawkins with the Ballpark Community Council questions why officers are leaving.
“We’ve seen this year the officers who have left the force, and what I’ve heard many officers call a mass exodus,” she says. “I want to know about what efforts that the SLCPD or the city has made to understand why have our public servants left?”
Not all feedback was negative. Diane told the commission officers helped her dealing with her son who was going through rough times.
“I thank the police department for helping me all through the years,” she says.
Diane told Councilchair Amy Fowler the officers were kind, asked questions, and were able to connect with her son to de-escalte the situation.
“It’s been a learning experience every single day. Not just being the mayor but in particular May 30th,” said Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
Since the SLC riot, Mayor Mendenhall says she’s becoming comfortable with the vulnerability of not knowing everything and is thankful residents spoke up so the city can grow.
City officials say they are still taking questions and concerns.
You can expect their answers and possible solutions from this meeting into everything in the coming weeks.