Utah Demonstrators Celebrate National Police Reform Bill
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The founder of Black Lives Matter in Utah was emotional after she heard about the unveiling of a new national bill on police reform, an issue she said they’ve been fighting for for years.
The bill includes banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and would allow state attorney generals to create an independent process to investigate misconduct or excessive use of force.
“It’s been six years. It’s been a long six years to get a police reform bill nationally,” said Lex Scott as tears streamed down her face. “I’m not saying it’s a perfect bill. I’m not saying the road ends here. I’m just saying it’s so big.”
Speaking of the many black victims of police brutality, Scott said, “The only way that we can get them justice is to change the entire system, and that is what they did today.”
But in the city of Minneapolis, council members wanted to take it further. They called for the police department to be disbanded.
Others across the nation have called for police departments to be defunded or reformed.
Scott said she supports what Minneapolis and others are trying to do, but that’s not what she’s calling for here in Utah.
“My number one goal is I want police to be held accountable for their actions,” she said. “I want to there to be a civilian oversight, and I want the use of force policies to be rewritten in the nation.”
Dr. Martell Teasley, dean of the University of Utah’s College of Social Work, said police departments are still needed, but defunding them or taking responsibilities away makes a lot of sense.
“You don’t want to get rid of a police department totally. What you want is to change its relationship with the community,” he said. “What we want to defund is the notion of using force like a hammer and treating everything like a nail. All the problems are not police problems. There are other challenges and services we need in our society.”
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, who serves as the second vice president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, released the following statement to KSL on behalf of the organization.
“Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. Now is the time to listen, learn and bring all parties to the table in order to ensure equity of change,” said Brown.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also released a statement to KSL, discussing her thoughts on the subject.
“We absolutely welcome critical evaluation of the budget and appreciate the opportunity the Council has to share it with the public and garner their feedback. We also know that underfunded, undertrained and understaffed police departments are less able to conduct community-based policing at the level we are trying to achieve and that’s a consideration to factor in,” she stated.
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