UTAH, May 5, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Chiefs of Police Association and its president, Ken Wallentine, issued a letter of thanks Wednesday to legislators who sponsored so-called police reform bills that were signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox, and which went into effect on Wednesday.
Wallentine thanked those sponsors for the chance to have input.
“Several laws passed and signed as a result of the 2021 legislative session take effect today,” Wallentine wrote in the letter. “The Utah Chiefs of Police Association (UCOPA) would like to thank the many legislators and key individuals who worked closely with UCOPA to ensure the best possible outcomes in the formulation of these new laws.
“The tireless efforts of many resulted in certain key community reform efforts being met while maintaining the integrity of effective public safety practices.”
The letter listed the following bills, which are now law:
• SB 106 will establish “minimum use of force standards” across the state, thus unifying agency understanding and application of force, while ensuring that all agencies meet these standards.
• SB 157 directs the Utah Department of Public Safety to create a program for assisting municipalities and counties to establish citizen advisory boards.
• SB 13 ensures an officer cannot escape internal investigation and adjudication by voluntarily resigning from one agency and moving to another.
• HB 334 ensures that all officers will receive autism awareness and mental illness training.
• SB 34 limits law enforcement use of imaging databases.
Of special note are HB 248 and SB 102. HB 248, sponsored by Rep. Kwan and Sen. Thatcher, provides funding for, and assigns the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to administer, a grant program to provide mental health resources for first responders, Wallentine’s statement says.
“Mental wellness plays a significant role in the retention of qualified and experienced first responders over the course of their careers, as well as in the prevention or interdiction of behavioral issues resulting from the mental traumas associated with emergency response. UCOPA is grateful for the efforts of the sponsors and the support of fellow legislators who made this law possible.
“SB 102, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray and Sen. Karen Mayne, permits lawful residents who meet certain requirements to apply to become peace officers or dispatchers. Just as the U.S. military has learned the value of national service by non-citizen legal residents, Utah law enforcement will learn the value of these candidates, particularly across language and cultural barriers, as they have opportunity to serve their communities and their chosen state.
“UCOPA would also like to publicly thank Rep. Ryan Wilcox, Chair of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, for his personal efforts in working with law enforcement officials to ensure the language and intent of the bill would produce the greatest likelihood of success while balancing the needs for agency integrity and security.”
The Utah Chiefs of Police Association anticipates great positive impacts of the 2021 legislative session on professional policing, the statement says.
“We continue to work with our community partners to continuously improve public safety in Utah’s cities and towns.”