‘Racism, prejudice and hate have no place in our city’: Washington City condemns racism through resolution

WASHINGTON CITY — The Washington City Council passed a resolution condemning racism Wednesday night that the sponsoring council member called “a step in the right direction.”

Washington City Councilman Kress Staheli discusses the city’s anti-racism resolution passed earlier that evening, Washington City, June 11, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Councilman Kress Staheli said he had seen other municipalities pass anti-racism resolutions and felt it was something the city should join in doing. Together with Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams, Staheli crafted a resolution based on the others he had seen that saw unanimous approval among the council during its regular meeting Wednesday.

Staheli said he felt the city needed to make a statement locally after seeing the protests and civil unrest taking place across the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an African American man living in Minneapolis, Minn., who was killed while in police custody May 15.

Multiple protests against police brutality, many tied to Black Lives Matter, have taken place since including in neighboring St. George.

“My heart goes out to everyone affected by this,” Staheli said while speaking with St. George News following the council meeting. “And I think, if I look inside myself, it’s my conscience that I think we have a duty to do what we can. As I looked around and I saw that some other cities had done a resolution, that’s something I thought we can and should do.”

Protesters demonstrate against police brutality in downtown St. George, Utah, June 4, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The resolution states in part:

…Racism, prejudice, and, we will continue to encourage an inclusive community built on trust and dedication to stand-up against all forms of racism. We will continue to ensure the Constitutional rights of every person who lives, works, and visits our great City, and;

WHEREAS, the Washington City Police Department has long-embraced a diverse department with a reputation for employing men and women of high ethical standards who understand and are taught the importance of equal treatment of every citizen and business owner; and

WHEREAS, Washington City Police Officers receive annual training that significantly exceeds the amount required by the State of Utah…

Chief Williams is well aware of the current climate and wants to do what he can to help be a part of the solution in relation to any issues people may have with police, Staheli said.

The resolution also encourages open communication and dialogue between police and all citizens and groups. It also stresses the police department will operate with a “commitment to function as a team to achieve its mission to protect and serve, and to fulfill expectations of honesty, transparency, and the fair treatment of all citizens and visitors.”

Washington City Residents Lori and Norb Lyle attended the Washington City Council meeting to support the passing of the city’s resolution condemning racism, Washington City, Utah, June 11, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Washington City residents Norb and Lori Lyle attended the council meeting to show their support of the resolution.

“It’s a public statement by the city of Washington that we condemn racism and discrimination, and we wanted to support that,” Lori Lyle said.

Norb Lyle said they both felt the resolution was timely and a good start, yet added more needed to be done.

While the Lyles said they have had good interaction with local police, they’ve heard differently from people of color who felt racially profiled during their own run-ins with officers.

“I’ve had dealings with the Washington Police, and they’re awesome, but that’s not necessarily the experience for everyone,” Lori Lyle said.

The Lyles said they also supported police policy reform and additional training for officers.

While no official meetings between the City Council and the police chief to discuss possible changes in police policy has occurred yet, Mayor Ken Nielson told St. George News Friday that he would be meeting with Williams soon.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks at a press conference at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City, June 11, 2020 | Pool photo by Spenser Heaps/Deseret News via The Associated Press, St. George News

“We have very good policy already in place, but obviously that’s going to be an ongoing discussion of how we can best serve all the citizens and all of the visitors who come here,” Staheli said.

Among reforms already taking place across the state is a ban on police use of chokeholds enacted by Gov. Gary Herbert Thursday for all state-level law enforcement agencies. He has also called on all other law agencies in the state to do the same.

“Nobody should have fear of our police,” Herbert said in a press conference. “It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is, your ethnicity, your background. Everybody is equal under the law and they should look at police and law enforcement, the men and women of law enforcement, as friends.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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