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


The Leadership Conference Education Fund

Release Date

Monday, May 18, 2020


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 Rightsreceived 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 “These principles can help law enforcement agencies root out discriminatory, outdated, and unsafe policies and practices amid this pandemic, and replace them with ones that prioritize public health, equity, and accountability.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, Virginia “To 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.

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