Efforts Underway To Review Utah’s Use-Of-Force Laws

Jul 10, 2020, 7:07 PM | Updated: Oct 30, 2022, 11:11 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has called for changes to city policies and Utah’s laws that dictate when officers are allowed to use lethal force.

“It’s important to me that both our officers and the public be made more safe by whatever changes might be contemplated,” she said.

During an hour-long meeting with the KSL and Deseret News editorial boards Friday, Mendenhall said Utah’s current statutes allow for too much leniency when it comes to the use of deadly tactics by police.

“I think we’re at the beginning of the technical contemplation of how that state code could change,” she said.

The comments came a day after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced that his office determined that two city officers were justified in the shooting death of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.

“I think that there was more evidence than I expected to show the justification of the actions of the Salt Lake City police officers,” Mendenhall said, adding that Gill’s decision showed officers acted according to the law and their trainings.

However, Mendenhall said that there is “a moral disconnect for many people between what is justified today and what the law should be reshaped to reflect morally, somehow, in the future.”

The mayor also called for peaceful protests and for citizens to allow time for various groups to start the process of reviewing policies and laws.

“I implore people to stop hurting people and stop breaking things because it is not affecting change whatsoever,” Mendenhall said.

During his announcement about the Palacios-Carbajal investigation, Gill said that he will soon be releasing his own recommendations on reforms.

“My office will release a set of proposals to start the conversation on how those laws may be changed and go through that process to make sure that it reflects the ideals and the values that we want as a community,” Gill said. “If we want different outcomes, then we need to change the law.”

Salt Lake City’s newly-formed Racial Equity In Policing Commission issued a statement saying that communities of color are tired after repeatedly asking for change.

“As acknowledged by the Salt Lake County DA himself today, our standards for deadly force are too broad,” the commission said. “There is a gap in this instance, and in other policies and practices both in Salt Lake City and throughout our state, between what is legal and what is truly right and just.”

The commission’s statement also spoke directly to the Palacios family.

“We know that our words cannot begin to help you heal, but our intent is that you may someday find solace in our actions and efforts to ensure that no family should ever find themselves in the position you are in now,” the statement read.

The Salt Lake City Police Department Citizens Advisory Board also released a statement requesting that standards be implemented to ban the use of deadly force when preventing a fleeing suspect from escaping.

“We believe that shooting Bernardo in excess of 30 times as he was running away from officers was an egregious misuse of force,” the advisory board’s statement said. “These are not acceptable actions representative of the manner of policing we support and want to continue seeing implemented in our community.”

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Efforts Underway To Review Utah’s Use-Of-Force Laws