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Gov. Herbert meets with Black community reps, announces police and education policy ideas

Governor MLK Commission
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 16, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert met again with representatives of Utah's Black community, promising to move from talk to action in police and educational reforms.

The meeting on Thursday with members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission had a more upbeat tone than the one FOX 13 first reported on last month. In that meeting, the governor cried as he heard from people who shared stories of experiencing racism in Utah.

The governor promised to return with policy ideas and, on Thursday, a series of reform initiatives were unveiled.

"One of the things you've asked of us is don't be silent any more," he told commission members.

But the governor told the group that he did not want to just talk.

"If all we do is talk, we will fail," he said, calling for action.

The policy ideas came out of surveys and conversations that Black community leaders have solicited. They include:

  • Enhanced training for police on working with multicultural populations
  • Utilizing the least amount of force
  • Increased community policing, more use of non-police social services
  • Data collection to ensure equitable enforcement
  • Increased use of body cameras
  • End the school-to-prison pipeline and end zero tolerance policies
  • Improve quality of K-12 education for youth of color
  • Develop a human rights curriculum framework for Utah students on racism, bias and inclusion

Emma Houston, the commission chair, said the policies would not happen overnight but it was a sign that progress was being made.

"This is a starting point. This is the framework we're looking at," she said.

The commission voted unanimously to advance the proposals into action that could go before Utah's education boards or the Utah State Legislature as formal bills.

Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that sparked global protests against police brutality and racism, Gov. Herbert has sought to implement policy changes. He instituted increased bias training in state government, starting with his own cabinet.

The governor recently met with Lex Scott, the leader of Black Lives Matter in Utah, and heard her policy ideas (and promised more meetings with her). The legislature also passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, that banned police from being taught chokehold tactics and using a "knee on the neck" (that killed Floyd).

Speaking to the commission, Rep. Hollins said she was glad to see a list of action items.

"I have been in these conversations for a long, long, long time," she said.

Terri Hughes, a student at Weber State University and member of the NAACP, said she was supportive of the policy ideas. She also believed Gov. Herbert was sincere in his efforts to make change.

"You cannot not want to do something in this time. You cannot just talk. There's no way you can say 'I'm going to do this for you' and not do it," Hughes said. "We've seen where that gets us with the rioting, the protests. So as a politician, he doesn't want that flack. As a person, I'm sure he feels the need to want to do something especially in these times."