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Live Mic: Mayor on diversity and racial equity in SLC police department

(File photo: KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — The mayor of Utah’s capital city is talking about diversifying the police force and moving toward racial equity throughout the department.

The Salt Lake City Racial Equity in Policing Commission recently released its first set of has recommendations to Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council. And Mayor Mendenhall joined Lee Lonsberry on Live Mic to discuss the commission’s findings.

She said she was satisfied with the commission’s recommendations but more work lies ahead.

“This is still in process,” Mendenhall said. “Great community members like the  Reverend Francis Davis and others are still at this work, so this is the first of what will probably be several reports we received, and we are very happy with the recommendations they brought to us.”

Introducing kids to police work

“What is your plan going forward with these recommendations . . . related to specifically the field training officers?” Lee asked.

“Our increasing diversity in the field training officer program has to start with increasing diversity in the department as a whole,” she said. “We have a current class right now of 26 [police] recruits, 10 of which are ethnically diverse,” Mendenhall said.

The mayor also spoke about introducing kids to a possible career in law enforcement under the SLCPD Explorers Program open to men and women ages 14 to 20.

“Our Explorers Program, which is a youth engagement program introducing policing to youth across Salt Lake City, has done a particularly awesome job in reaching populations that might not traditionally have thought of law enforcement as something accessible to them,” Mendenhall said.

How to diversify police?

“Is there a quantifiable objective when it comes to diversity? . . . How do you know when you’ve reached this goal?” Lee asked.

“I think, at a minimum, we should be looking at a police department, overall, that reflects the population that we serve,” the mayor said.

Mendenhall said there is less diversity in the police specialty-training divisions than within SLCPD as a whole.

SLCPD needs to start “asking those questions of our officers of color about whether or not they feel there’s barriers to them accessing or wanting to do that kind of specialized work,” the mayor said.  “. . .  What can we do to improve that? And then again, how can we increase our recruitment of people from our diverse communities in Salt Lake?”

Training for a crisis

Lee pointed out that the commission’s report indicated shortcomings in the department’s crisis intervention training (CIT).

“What are your thoughts on that and are there specific plans to remedy that?” he asked.

“We definitely take a lot of pride that Salt Lake City requires the crisis intervention training of all of our officers in the beginning of their work, which is something unique to our police department . . . it’s something other departments are now moving toward,” she said.

“When we hire an officer from another department, somewhere else in the state, they should be trained. That seems like a no-brainer. That’s a recommendation that came from the commission. We need to make sure that all of our officers are trained in the methods and what those expectations are for the way our officers engage with our public,” the mayor said.



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Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.