On Thursday, the Criminal and Social Justice Standing Committee convened during the United States Conference of Mayors’ 88th Annual Meeting to address a number of timely issues including the national call for police reform, closing the equity gaps around race, support for safer, more accessible elections, and the need for COVID-19 federal aid for immigrants.
As part of the discussion, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and members of USCM’s Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group shared, for the first time publicly, a newly established core set of principles for policing that will guide their specific recommendations for preventing police violence and patterns of racial discrimination in police departments across the country. In addition to taking into account the public outcry around racially-biased police practices, the principles also set the stage to address concerns that for far too long, law enforcement have been responsible for social services better addressed by community-based alternatives.
In introducing the principles, The Working Group highlighted the importance of continuing to pursue a national standard for policing. There was discussion in recognition of several best practices in policing which The Working Group reviewed in development of the principles and which will be used as continued guidance as The Working Group moves forward with the policy recommendations to be released next month. These principles were codified in a resolution that was passed by the committee.
There was also consideration of a number of resolutions related to long-standing economic and racial disparities brought to light by COVID-19. The disproportionality that exists for black and brown communities in exposure to environmental health risks was highlighted in a resolution sponsored by Mayor Lightfoot, and mayors agreed that the historic lack of access to adequate healthcare in under-resourced communities is compounded by COVID-19. The resolution concluded that policies at all levels of government must promote equitable outcomes for African Americans and Latinx residents by tapping community-based assets and disaggregating data by race and ethnicity so that leaders can identify and understand the depth of challenges.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti led a resolution urging Congress to set aside partisan differences to eliminate immigration restrictions on COVID-19 testing, treatment and relief programs. Members of the Committee agreed that a failure to do so will create a greater public health hazard for Americans, as well as our national economic recovery.
In a related resolution, also sponsored by Mayor Garcetti, the Committee voted in support of the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act and is urging Congress to pass the legislation to hold the Administration accountable for reported health and safety breaches in federal detention facilities. In particular, reports have revealed that ICE detention facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases were operating without social distancing protocols, failed to provide staff with proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and did not ensure detainee access to hygiene products.
Members of the Committee also resoundingly voiced their support for making elections safer and more accessible in the midst of the pandemic. San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter and Mayor Lightfoot led resolutions that affirm national efforts to increase voter participation in advance of the November 3rd national election and beyond. The resolutions highlighted specific expansion efforts, including automatic voter registration and vote-by-mail to protect populations who are most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
With the Committee’s approval, these resolutions will now be considered by the Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and those that pass will become official Conference policy for the next year.