clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Last year we committed to ensuring trust in police — now we’re checking in

A West Jordan police vehicle is pictured in West Jordan on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
A West Jordan police vehicle is pictured in West Jordan on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Love, Listen, Lead: that’s the commitment that members of the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Chiefs of Police Association made last summer to ensure community trust in police. Our objective was to find the space where we supported our officers and identified areas to improve. The two groups, along with our state and local law enforcement colleagues, delivered on that commitment.

As a mayor and as a police chief, we know the pain of burying our officers who gave their lives in the line of duty. We thank them and their families for their service. We’ve heard from community members who want to contribute to improving public safety. We all share a desire for safe and welcoming communities.

As we listened to community members, we learned of a trust gap about police between residents who are white and residents who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and a trust gap with millennials. We heard from community members who desired improved training and increased diversity in law enforcement. We heard from officers about improving the process of addressing misconduct and their interest in enhanced training. We learned about disparities in police-related data collection.

Consequently, we — in cooperation with community advocates, legislators, and state and county law enforcement leaders like Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson — worked together to build community trust in public safety. Even when we disagreed, we still discussed. The House Law Enforcement Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee — shepherded by Rep. Ryan Wilcox and Sen. Todd Weiler — ultimately produced a record number of consensus bills, including:

Officer misconduct:

Rep. Andrew Stoddard’s bills preclude officers from sharing intimate images with individuals uninvolved in the investigation (HB59) and authorizes discipline for proven dishonesty, deception, or certain types of knowingly biased conduct (HB62). Sen. Jani Iwamoto’s bills require the sharing of information between agencies about officers facing internal disciplinary investigations when those officers are seeking employment at another agency (SB13, SB196).

Data:

Rep. Angela Romero’s bills require agencies to submit statistics about use of force (HB84) and require officers to file reports after pointing firearms or tasers at individuals (HB264). Sen. Jake Anderegg’s bill created a framework for law enforcement data collection (SB159).

Training:

Rep. Romero’s bill requires at least 16 hours of a police officer’s annual 40 training hours include mental health or other crisis intervention responses, arrest control, and de-escalation (HB162). Rep. Candice Pierucci’s bill requires training for handling domestic violence and lethality assessment (HB301). Rep. Steve Eliason’s bill requires training on autism spectrum disorder (HB334). Rep. Sandra Hollins’ bill enhances training for school resource officers (HB345). Sen. Dan Thatcher’s bill ensures that agencies with canines have policies and certifications (SB38). Sen. Karen Mayne’s bill permits lawful residents who have been in the country for five years to become police officers and dispatchers (SB102).

Use of force:

Sen. Thatcher’s bill establishes statewide use of force standards (SB106). Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost’s bill modifies how officers handle individuals who are posing a danger only to themselves (HB237).

Support of officers:

The Legislature also approved new services and resources. Rep. Karen Kwan’s bill created a grant program to provide mental health resources for first responders (HB248). Sen. Thatcher’s bill created the state framework for the operation, funding, and interoperability of the 988 line for behavioral health crisis response (SB155).

These bills will make a positive difference for our residents and our officers. Meanwhile, the dialogue about trust and safety will continue at city halls, police stations, the capitol, and in our neighborhoods.

Police chiefs and mayors — and league members statewide — are committed to these steps and to continuous improvement in police services. We advocated for stronger certification requirements, added to training, and prescribed new tactics to deal with the mentally ill and those in crisis. We raised expectations at a time when Utah’s police departments are struggling to recruit and hire officers. Utah will realize the benefits of continuous improvement of policing standards, training, and practices if we provide the necessary resources to staff and train Utah’s public safety agencies.

Mike Caldwell is the Mayor of Ogden, Utah, and president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, an organization that represents municipal government interests at the state and federal levels and provides training, information, and technical assistance to local officials.

Ken Wallentine is chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and president of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association. He is the former chief of law enforcement for the Utah Attorney General, having served more than three decades in public safety.