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SLC Police Association Pushes Back On Mayor’s Order

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Salt Lake Police Association is pushing back on Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s executive order issued one week ago that implements seven reforms at the Salt Lake City Police Department.

“The phrase ‘protect and serve’ is not trite or cliché to us,” said officer Jon Fitisemanu, a member of the Salt Lake Police Association executive board. “It represents who we are individually and collectively.”

The police association took issue with Mendenhall’s order that calls out “racial and social disparities [that] continue to exist in Salt Lake City.”

“We reject the mayor’s claim of racial and social disparities across all Salt Lake City agencies and institutions,” Fitisemanu read in a prepared statement. “The mayor’s claim wrongfully and insultingly disparages her own employees.”

SLPA’s statement said in recent months their officers “have endured months of rocks, bricks, bottles, bats and other objects hurled at us with hate. Dozens have been injured … We have been called racists … our families and children have been threatened. Even our own employers have castigated us in the news without fact or justification.”

“They’re on the wrong side of history,” said Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, in response to the statement. “Get on the right side of history. Hold yourself to a higher standard and try to disarm, deescalate situations.”

Scott has been pushing for police reform for years. She praised the mayor’s order that tightens the use of force policy, allows discipline for officers who fail to turn on their body cameras and adds to the search and seizure policy.

“What we need people out there in the public to understand is, we’re not going after individual police officers. We are trying to change the system,” Scott said. “They should not want to use lethal force. They should go out every day and try to protect and serve the public. It’s ‘protect and serve’ not ‘comply or die.’”

The police reforms at SLCPD come amid a backdrop of growing unrest surrounding police use of force in Utah and around the country, largely reignited by the death of George Floyd.

“The officers’ abhorrent actions in Minneapolis that resulted in the death of Mr. Floyd is an example that we cannot, must not tolerate,” Fitisemanu said. “But Salt Lake City is not Minneapolis, or Detroit, or Los Angeles or Chicago. We will not tolerate racial bias in pour works as officers, or in what we witness in the community.”

In response to the association’s pushback, Mendenhall said in a statement:

“Being the best police department doesn’t just happen, it takes continual work and a commitment to improve as best practices evolve. We agree with SLPA that our department is full of good police officers who show up every day with the goal of protecting every resident equally. It’s in the spirit of constant improvement that my administration collaborated with Chief Brown and his team on reforms announced last week. We hope that as their remarks today indicated, SLPA plans to provide their input on the policy changes that will be implemented on September 5 and we look forward to their collaboration and feedback as the Commission on REP makes additional recommendations. It takes all of us to do the work of making a more equitable Salt Lake City.”

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