Give Salt Lake Mayor Erin Mendenhall credit. While activists in other cities have tried to attack problems of systemic racism by calling for the defunding of police departments, she recently raised department salaries by 30% for new recruits and 12% for senior officers.
Her reasoning was that doing so would help the city attract and keep the best officers. We would add that it brings a level of dignity to the job of a law enforcement officer, which promotes a high standard of performance.
This move gave the mayor and the City Council the credibility to proclaim last Tuesday that racism is a public health crisis, with a resolve to look closely for racist legacies within the city’s own policy framework and beyond.
Perhaps the most galling aspect of a hyperpartisan culture is that words like “racism,” which ought to unite people in condemnation, have become politicized. People find conspiracies and hidden agendas that twist and burden meanings with heavy layers of sinister intentions.
The city’s resolution rests on a more straightforward definition, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Racism is a system — consisting of structures, policies, practices, and norms — that assigns value and determines opportunity based on the way people look or the color of their skin.”
That sounds a lot like the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which former Gov. Gary Herbert and other political and community leaders unveiled last December. At the time, Herbert said the compact was just a beginning; something “individuals and businesses can rally around” to examine themselves and come up with better anti-racist policies and actions.
Herbert said the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers had “pricked our conscience.” He added that it “reminded us all we have not gotten to the promised land yet. We are not where we wanted to be or should be.”
Source: Deseret News