SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Aug. 3, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Chief Mike Brown announced seven key policy changes for the police department at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Additions and changes will be made to use-of-force, body-worn cameras, and search-and-seizure policies by Sept. 5 of this year, Mendenhall told assembled reporters.
Speaking outside the City and County Building, Mendenhall said: “Every community deserves law enforcement that serves and protects all of our families; I believe that, Chief Mike Brown believes that. To that end we are committed to making institutional changes to the way our city is policed; reforms that build trust and operate on transparency.
“The people of this community deserve a city that is equitable, for all that reside here. Today we’re taking another step in our commitment to making the Salt Lake City Police Department the most well-trained and progressive police department in the country.”
Some department policies have already been updated, Mendenhall said, and the Salt Lake City Commission on Racial Equity in Policing will soon begin a broad review and recommend changes to the department’s policies, budget and culture. She added, however “that there are some policy reforms that can and should be made without any further delay.”
To that end, Mendenhall has signed an executive order that directs Brown to make seven reforms to SLCPD policies, with the intention to improve safety for both officers and the community.
Use of force
“Our policy currently requires that an officer find it reasonable to believe that a person will use a weapon to harm someone, an officer must now determine that deadly force is necessary and that the threat of death or serious bodily injury is imminent,” Mendenhall said of the first policy change. “Necessary and imminent will be carefully defined in our new policy.”
Second, officers will now be required to use de-escalation techniques before use of force.
“De-escalation tactics are no longer suggested, or preferred, they are mandatory, prior to using force to affect an arrest, unless it would be unreasonable to do so,” Mendenhall said. “Officers will employ effective communication techniques in an attempt to achieve voluntary compliance. It is expected that our officers shall not contribute to a situation that could lead to use of force, by taking unnecessary or overly aggressive action.”
Third, there will be a ban on use of deadly force to prevent an individual from self-harming, when the individual is not an immediate threat to others.
Fourth, any officer who reasonably believes another officer is about to use force, or other action that is illegal, excessive or otherwise inconsistent with policy must do whatever they can to interrupt the flow of events and prevent the use of force.
Fifth, officers will be required to provide more detail in use-of-force incidents, including use of de-escalation tactics, as well as documenting every use of force, not just when it results in bodily injury. These will then be reviewed by two levels of supervisors.
Sixth, the body-worn camera policy will be updated to ensure discipline for officers for “intentionally and negligently failing to activate their cameras,” Mendenhall said.
Search and seizure policies
Lastly, SLCPD officers conducting searches of real property or a vehicle without a warrant will be required to inform the person being searched of their right to refuse and obtain a signature of the person consenting on the SLCPD Consent to Search Form, which will be updated to be easier to understand and translated into the languages most commonly spoken in Salt Lake City.
Mendenhall added: “These seven reforms are the beginning of our work, not the end. I hope and I expect that we will see additional reforms in the coming weeks and months.”
Brown then took the podium, and said: “We have looked at model policies around the country, with the intent of finding the best way Salt Lake City Police Department could conduct its business. Some of these policy revisions reflect national best practices, others will be seen as a new gold standard of policing, with Salt Lake City Police Department leading the way.”
He added: “We always look for ways to do it better. Sometimes those changes come from officers on the street, sometimes they come through our training, best practice taught around the county. Other times they come from the community we serve.
“But honestly, this is not a radical shift for us. Many of these challenges we understand to be best practices. We’ve always held change and evolution as a pillar of our training and that is why we are the best department with the most opportunities.
“These new policies aren’t just about ink on paper. We will take the time necessary to ensure the department reads them, that they understand them, and most importantly we train to these changes, as we do with all policies. There is not one officer in this department who does not want to be the best in this profession. I know they come to work every day and they bring their A game because we have seen their professionalism and their character. We are sworn to obey, to support, and to defend the constitution of this country and this state, and we will continue to do so.”