WASHINGTON – Noting an increase in discriminatory policing practices during COVID-19, The Leadership Conference Education Fund released principles that provide actionable recommendations for law enforcement agencies across the country to better protect the health and safety of communities and officers during the pandemic and beyond. The principles, Public Safety During COVID-19 and Beyond: Recommendations for Protecting Public Health and Our Civil Rights, received endorsements from more than 100 civil rights organizations and law enforcement groups, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), Carmen Best, Chief of the Seattle Police Department, Washington and Rashall Brackney, Chief of the Charlottesville Police Department, Virginia.
“This crisis risks further criminalizing already marginalized communities, especially communities of color, but it has also forced us to revisit policing priorities and practices,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Education Fund. “These principles can help law enforcement agencies root out discriminatory, outdated, and unsafe policies and practices amid this pandemic, and replace them with ones that prioritize public health, equity, and accountability. We urge police departments around the country to adopt this roadmap to achieve equitable and effective policing practices that advance public safety.”
“A global pandemic is a public health issue, not a criminal justice one,” said Carmen Best, chief of the Seattle Police Department, Washington. “Police departments across the country, including Seattle, have done so much work to build trust in our communities, we must be thoughtful in the role we play in protecting the health of community members and officers. Our role as law enforcement officers includes protecting the civil rights of every community member, and that doesn’t change during a pandemic.”
“Public health and public safety are not competing priorities,” said Rashall Brackney, chief of the Charlottesville Police Department, Virginia “To benefit both communities and police, the criminal justice system must acknowledge historical and institutional biases that target, alienate, and punish people of color and other vulnerable populations. The coproduction of public health and safety mandates a shift in power and perspective from an authoritarian lens to one of shared responsibilities. COVID-19 is devastating our black communities; the policing profession cannot continue to carry the contagion of racism for which our country has no vaccine.”
“Every police officer worth his or her badge got into this profession to help people, not ple into the justice system,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), 34-year police veteran and executive director for Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). “The COVID-19 crisis poses a unique opportunity for police and courts to re-examine what’s really important. Our profession stands to gain much respect if we rethink how we interact with people every day, reconsider our proper role in society, and carry these lessons over into the post-pandemic world.”
The principles fall under three main categories:
Prioritize a Public Health
Response to a Public Health Crisis: State and local health agencies should take the lead in enforcing public health orders, not police. Law enforcement can support health agencies through community education and awareness about the directives and referring community members to social services providers and programs.
Practice Fairness, Promote
Equity: Police should prioritize bias-free policing policies and practices and stop making arrests and detentions for offenses that pose no imminent harm to others and are not a threat to public safety, including immigration, to the maximum extent possible.
Commit to Accountability and Transparency
Commit to Accountability and Transparency: In addition to holding officers accountable for proper COVID-19 responses, police departments should collect and publish data to learn more for future crises.”
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