The invitation caught City Council Vice President Willie J. Lightfoot off guard, but the more he thought about it, he wasn’t taken aback to be asked to join the National League of Cities Reimagining Public Safety Task Force.
“It was from the CEO of the National League of Cities,” Lightfoot said. “He emailed me and said he wanted me to be on this. It came out of the blue. I had no idea.”
The task force will develop recommendations for a 21st-century approach to public safety, share public safety and justice reforms and identify areas for improvement, and boost voices of city leaders in the nationwide discussion about public safety.
But in the wake of the in-custody death of Daniel Prude and the reforms that Rochester is working on, the invitation made sense.
“I’m not surprised because of what happened here, I was one of the ones that was chosen,” said Lightfoot, who chairs City Council’s public safety, youth and recreation committee. “We can learn from Daniel Prude.”
Lightfoot is one of about 20 elected representatives from cities of various sizes. The task force will convene virtually between January and October and cover topics such as alternative responses to emergencies, violence prevention, law enforcement reforms, public safety budgets, jail reduction, racial equity, community engagement and local-state-federal partnerships.
“This is an honor considering how big our country is,” Lightfoot said. “I was one of 20 people chosen to sit on a task force to come up with recommendations that will affect everyone in the nation.”
The task force is one of two appointments for Lightfoot to the National League of Cities.
He applied to be part of the 2021 Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee, which develops policy positions on issues of crime prevention, corrections, substance abuse, homeland security, the courts and gun control. The committee advocates at the federal level on policies that have a direct impact on local governments.
Lightfoot previously has served on other NLC committees.
“I love to learn,” he said. “We don’t have all the answers here. If we did, we wouldn’t be in the condition we’re in. I think it’s important for elected officials to interact with colleagues across the country.”
The National League of Cities is comprised of city, town and village leaders and states its mission as strengthening local leadership, influencing federal policy and driving innovative solutions.
Rochester has been a long-standing member of the NLC.