Civil Rights, Law Enforcement Leaders Urge Police to Protect Public Health while Safeguarding Rights

New principles provide roadmap for public safety during COVID-19 and beyond

Contact: Rafael Medina, [email protected], 202.869.0390

WASHINGTON – Noting an increase in discriminatory policing practices during COVID-19, The Leadership Conference Education Fund released principles that provide actionable recommendations for law enforcement agencies across the country to better protect the health and safety of communities and officers during the pandemic and beyond. The principles, Public Safety During COVID-19 and Beyond: Recommendations for Protecting Public Health and Our Civil Rights, received endorsements from more than 100 civil rights organizations and law enforcement groups, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), Carmen Best, Chief of the Seattle Police Department, Washington and Rashall Brackney, Chief of the Charlottesville Police Department, Virginia.

“This crisis risks further criminalizing already marginalized communities, especially communities of color, but it has also forced us to revisit policing priorities and practices,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Education Fund. “These principles can help law enforcement agencies root out discriminatory, outdated, and unsafe policies and practices amid this pandemic, and replace them with ones that prioritize public health, equity, and accountability. We urge police departments around the country to adopt this roadmap to achieve equitable and effective policing practices that advance public safety.”

“A global pandemic is a public health issue, not a criminal justice one,” said Carmen Best, chief of the Seattle Police Department, Washington. “Police departments across the country, including Seattle, have done so much work to build trust in our communities, we must be thoughtful in the role we play in protecting the health of community members and officers. Our role as law enforcement officers includes protecting the civil rights of every community member, and that doesn’t change during a pandemic.”

“Public health and public safety are not competing priorities,” said Rashall Brackney, chief of the Charlottesville Police Department, VirginiaTo benefit both communities and police, the criminal justice system must acknowledge historical and institutional biases that target, alienate, and punish people of color and other vulnerable populations. The coproduction of public health and safety mandates a shift in power and perspective from an authoritarian lens to one of shared responsibilities. COVID-19 is devastating our black communities; the policing profession cannot continue to carry the contagion of racism for which our country has no vaccine.”

“Every police officer worth his or her badge got into this profession to help people, not to arrest people for the minor mistakes that bring most people into the justice system,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), 34-year police veteran and executive director for Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). “The COVID-19 crisis poses a unique opportunity for police and courts to re-examine what’s really important. Our profession stands to gain much respect if we rethink how we interact with people every day, reconsider our proper role in society, and carry these lessons over into the post-pandemic world.”

The principles fall under three main categories:

  • Prioritize a Public Health Response to a Public Health Crisis: State and local health agencies should take the lead in enforcing public health orders, not police. Law enforcement can support health agencies through community education and awareness about the directives and referring community members to social services providers and programs.
  • Practice Fairness, Promote Equity: Police should prioritize bias-free policing policies and practices and stop making arrests and detentions for offenses that pose no imminent harm to others and are not a threat to public safety, including immigration, to the maximum extent possible.
  • Commit to Accountability and Transparency: In addition to holding officers accountable for proper COVID-19 responses, police departments should collect and publish data to learn more for future crises.

The following list has endorsed the principles to date:

The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)
Current Law Enforcement
Carmen Best, Chief of the Seattle Police Department, WA
RaShall Brackney, Chief of the Charlottesville Police Department, VA
Branville Bard, Commissioner of the Cambridge Police Department, MA
Former Law Enforcement 
Det. Justin Boardman (Fmr.), West Valley City Police Department, UT
Commander Marc Buslik (Ret.), Chicago Police Department, IL
Deputy Chief Stephen Downing (Ret.), Los Angeles Police Department, CA
Officer Dave Franco (Ret.), Chicago Police Department, IL
Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), Maryland State and Baltimore Police Departments, MD/ Executive Director, LEAP
Special Agent Jamie Haase (Fmr.), U.S.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, VA
Lucy Lang, Assistant District Attorney (Fmr.), New York, NY
Sheriff James Manfre (Ret.), Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, FL
Deputy Inspector Corey Pegues (Ret.), New York Police Department, NY
Detective Debbie Ramsey (Ret.), Baltimore Police Department, MD
Chief Norm Stamper (Ret.), Seattle Police Department, WA
Special Agent Ray Strack (Ret.), Dept. of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Allison Watson, Assistant District Attorney (Fmr.), Knoxville, TN
A Little Piece of Light
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
Alternate ROOTS
American Atheists
American Civil Liberties Union
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Arab American Institute
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Austin Justice Coalition
Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network
Black and Pink
California Legal Research
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Justice
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU Law
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School
Chicago Urban League
Cities United
Civil Rights Corps
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Dallas Community Police Oversight Coalition
Defending Rights & Dissent
Dignity & Power NOW
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
Equal Justice Society
Equal Justice USA
Equal Rights Advocates
Equality California
Equity And Transformation
Fair and Just Prosecution
Faith in Texas
Fathers Who Care
FREE! Families Rally for Emancipation and Empowerment
Futures Without Violence
Harm Reduction Coalition
Hip Hop Caucus
HIRE Network
Housing Choice Partners
IBW Police Reform and Accountability Task Force
Interfaith Alliance
International Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Ithaca Prisoner Justice Network
Justice For Housing
Juvenile Law Center
Kentucky Council of Churches
King County Department of Public Defense
Lambda Legal
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Legal Action Center
Massachusetts Against Solitary Confinement
Matthew Shepard Foundation
Media Alliance
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Action Network
National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE)
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
National Association of Human Rights Workers
National Association of Social Workers
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Council of Churches
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
Not In Our Town
Open MIC
OVEC-Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
People For the American Way
PFLAG National
Prison Policy Initiative
Public Defender Association
Reclaim Philadelphia
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Safer Foundation
Silver State Equality-Nevada
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
SPLC Action Fund
Starting Over, Inc.
The Black Sex Worker Collective (The BSWC)
Union for Reform Judaism
United Church of Christ
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
We Got Us Now
Workers Center of Central NY

*Last updated on May 15, 2020.

The Education Fund previously launched a “New Era of Public Safety” initiative featuring groundbreaking tools to increase trust, fairness, justice, and mutual respect between police departments and the communities they serve. The guidebook and toolkit offer community-centered policy solutions to equip U.S. communities and police departments with best practices and recommendations for adopting 21st century policing models, including tools for advocacy. More information on the initiative is available here.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit

New Era of Public Safety is an initiative of The Leadership Conference Education Fund for 21st Century data-driven best practices in policing.