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Lancaster Mayor Sorace pledges racial equity in addressing policing, city jobs, housing

Power Interfaith Coalition Vigil for George Floyd

Lancaster City Mayor Danene Sorace on June 5, 2020, announces policing reforms during a news conference outside the police station.

Mayor Danene Sorace this week responded to this summer’s protests by issuing an ambitious, 22-point framework that commits Lancaster city to racial equity and accountability in policing, employment practices and community development.

The three-page document builds upon pledges Sorace made during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in early June. She committed at that time to banning chokeholds, de-escalation training and other reforms.

“We have to make sure that the city government is rooted in equity,” Sorace said in reading her new commitments Tuesday night before City Council. “This means setting more ambitious communitywide goals around things like affordable housing and good jobs.”

Strategies include a report on the demand for affordable housing.

In proposing change, the mayor offered caveats.

She said police reform must take into consideration the contrasting views of those who call for defunding police and those who want more policing.

Sorace also pointed to financial and other constraints on municipal government to bring about change and the need to enlist county, state and federal leaders in the work.

And the mayor noted that comprehensive change “can’t all happen overnight.”

Sorace set a conciliatory tone, pledging to build trust, welcome new ideas and reject an “us-versus-them” stance.

She acknowledged the anger of those who took to the streets after George Floyd’s killing while also expressing pride in the city’s police force.

“This is one of the most trying seasons of your lives and your profession,” she said. “I know how many of you go into this work to protect and to serve.”

Seven of the framework’s 22 points address policing. They include hiring more women and people of color, hiring a second police social worker, publishing a two-year look back on use of force and analyzing the 84,000 calls annually for police service.

Six points focus on community development. The strategies include allocating COVID-19 federal funding to eviction prevention and housing the homeless, investigating affordable housing supply and demand, creating a report on rental housing conditions, and supporting an affordable housing summit.

Five points deal with promoting diversity and racial equity in the way the city hires, evaluates and promotes staff.

The mayor also looks to increase the public’s understanding of how local government works and to back stronger partnerships of organizations working to reduce homelessness and poverty.

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