Mayors across the country are vocally condemning the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, marching with protesters in their streets and outlining concrete steps to address the systemic racism that still plagues U.S. communities.
Why it matters: De-escalating the violence that's erupted amid protests is only the start of building a constructive relationship between the public and local law enforcement.
"The process of building trust is never finished," said St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter, the son of a police officer. "We have to continue to earn it every day."
What’s happening: Some mayors took quick action after major missteps by their police departments during protests.
- Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer swiftly fired the city’s police chief after officers had their body cameras turned off while they fatally shot black business owner David McAtee.
- Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered the firing of two police officers who used excessive force in the arrest of two young African Americans during curfew.
- Richmond, Virginia, Mayor Levar Stoney apologized after police fired tear gas at peaceful protesters before curfew.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the city's former police chief, marched with protesters on Saturday. Officers were on hand to provide a safe space for people to express themselves, she said. But when the sun set, agitators lit explosives, burned buildings and threw rocks at police officers.
- "I've seen a lot of civil unrest, but nothing to that level," Castor told Axios. "When anything happens in a community, law enforcement is the most visible arm of government ... and they are the unfortunate target of pent-up frustration and anger."
Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas answered protesters' questions, marched with them up Main Street, gave out his cellphone number, and took a knee in a moment of silence with police chief Rick Smith at a downtown gathering.
- In conversations with Smith, Lucas has emphasized the need for police to look less like an outside militaristic force.
- "Do we need tear gas? Do we need the same number of officers standing so close to protesters, and therefore becoming a focus point of anger? Every time tear gas is deployed, it escalates anew."
Newport News, Virginia, Mayor McKinley Price said he's visiting church services and events — "wherever I'm invited" — to hear what people are feeling. The police department held a six-hour online chat to take questions and comments.
- Price, the newly elected president of the African American Mayors Association, said black mayors across the country are encouraging communities of color to use tools they already have to make their voices heard.
- Those tools include ensuring that people of color, who are often significantly undercounted, are counted in this year's census so communities receive the necessary funds for programs like police training, he said.
In St. Paul, Carter has overseen an exhaustive review of the police department's use-of-force policy after a months-long conversation with the public. Going forward, he said the focus should be on changing racist elements in laws, city charters, local and state policies, and court precedents.
- "There are police contracts all over the country that are laced to barriers to holding police officers accountable when a life like George Floyd's is so wrongfully taken," Carter said. "All the folks who are on fire right now, let's channel this energy toward changing that."
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