Police reform in Utah: What does it look like?

Since the murder of George Floyd, Utah has seen a number of protests asking for police reform.

The Salt Lake City Police Department has responded by enacting the ban of chokeholds and tear gas on crowds. Officers were never taught these tactics, said Chief of Police Mike Brown; however, the policy has not explicitly prohibited them until this time.

The SLCPD budget may also see reallocations. Some citizens in Salt Lake have asked the council to withhold $30 million from the police department’s budget. Brown said this would make a large impact on the safety of SLC citizens.

The Salt Lake City Council has a budget of $331 million, $82 million of which went to the SLCPD. The 2019 budget allocated $4 million to replace the oldest police cars with hybrid vehicles.

Activist groups in the area have their own ideas about what the ideal police reform would look like; however, they agree that this is a positive step forward.

Police: defund or democratize?

Police reform in Utah: What does it look like?

Some, such as Will Kemner, founder of the Salt Lake Equal Rights Movement, said individualized departments should respond to emergencies instead of a single organization.

The proper professional can then use de-escalation tactics for the situation at hand, Kemner said.

“We do believe that we need to take the militarized police department and defund it and then further disband it,” Kemner said.

Other groups, such as Utah Against Police Brutality, hope to pass legislation to democratize police departments.

Jade Arter, founder of UAPB, said the group drafted and presented their legislation six years ago. Unfortunately, Utah already has a bill in place that prohibits municipal-level councils.

Arter said: “Although we have more obstacles as we are fighting for that goal, we are not giving up. We are not deterred. We just have to reevaluate our strategies and figure out the best path forward.”

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Featured image courtesy of Utah Against Police Brutality.

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