Commentary: Help us define the new normal of policing in Salt Lake City

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fatima Dirie embraces Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown following a rally in Salt Lake City on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

A little over one week ago, our roles as the core council of the Salt Lake City Commission on Racial Equity in Policing were announced to the public.

The work ahead of us is clear: Define a new normal in policing.

But before we can reach that ultimate end goal we know there is much that needs to happen both within the policies and procedures of our city, and in our work together as a community.

First, and perhaps most important, is the establishment of trust between the mayor’s office, the public, law enforcement and the commission. We know trust is not given, but rather earned over time with actions that reinforce our commitments. And we hope to earn it with you, the public, through acting with an abundance of transparency.

Transparency starts with broad community engagement. This means that we will seek out voices who do and do not typically engage with government, we will publicly articulate our shared goals and we will maintain regular dialogue with advocates and stakeholders across the spectrum of viewpoints in this complex conversation.

Our intent and the intent of city officials is for our work to produce strong and implementable policy proposals, budget recommendations and ways to shift the culture of the department. For this to be a meaningful process and with meaningful results, we can’t and won’t work in a vacuum.

In the days ahead we will embark on the process of incorporating a more broad spectrum of community representatives into the commission. And in the weeks and months that follow, our work will center around dialogue with you, researching the systems, policies and laws in place, and ultimately advising, both in the short and long term what changes ought to be made based on our findings.

Just as you may be thinking of ideas and solutions to issues with policing as we know it today, each of us has had time to reflect on some of the changes we’d like to see this commission take on.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, we as the core council of the commission want to know what our options are to promote the use of social workers, mental health care professionals, and community workers in situations that should not require a police response.

Can we narrow the scope of the school-to-prison pipeline and limit the interaction of our children of color with law enforcement by transitioning out of the use of school resource officers in favor of social workers and/or other mental health professionals?

What is the role of procedural justice in legitimizing the work of police?

And in what ways can we work with state legislators to further revise the juvenile code as it pertains to youth delinquency?

These questions are merely a starting point for what we want to explore in our work with and on behalf of you. Through the incorporation of community voices into this process, it is our hope that the goal of defining a new normal in policing is not only met, but truly reflective of the needs of our city.

Submitted by members of the core council of the Salt Lake City Commission on Racial Equity in Policing. 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; 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.