Governor Cox Signs 12 New Law Enforcement Bills

Apr 21, 2021, 5:43 PM | Updated: 8:11 pm

SANDY, Utah — Utah Governor Spencer Cox ceremonially signed a dozen bills into law, aimed at improving training and transparency in policing.

He was joined Wednesday by legislators and community leaders at the police training facility in Sandy.

“More than anything, they improve policing,” the governor said. “When we say Utah is a different place, this is what we’re talking about.”

The bills cover a wide range of law enforcement policies, from use of force and how a police officer can restrain somebody, to improved data collection for better understanding of policing and greater transparency.

Lawmakers said they hope the bills will foster greater trust.

“It lets the community know that we recognize there is an issue, we are working on the issue, and we’re working on making changes to policies,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, (D-Salt Lake City).

The bill signing was not planned to coincide with the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, but the Governor said the timing highlights the necessity Utah recognized to take action.

“The why now is that we did have this moment and I think it would be a mistake to let that moment pass,” said Cox.

The laws focus on improved police training, preventing illegal arrest techniques and crisis intervention.

Lawmakers said the bills came out of a lot of collaborative work between law enforcement, community activists and policymakers.

“Today highlighted a lot of bills that raised the bar, that increased transparency, that increased accountability,” said Sen. Daniel Thatcher, (R-West Valley City), who cosponsored several of the bills. “It’s the first time that we as a state have established a state-wide standard for appropriate use of force.”

“They wanted to see some reform. We heard people when they were protesting,” said Rep. Angela Romero, (D-Salt Lake City) who represents one of the most diverse districts in the state.

Romero also cosponsored several bills. One of them requires 16 hours of de-escalation training for dealing with someone who might be suffering a mental health crisis. She admitted that was not a lot of training time, but it was a beginning for positive change.

“It’s about transparency to the community and to our press, but it’s also about adapting training for peace officers so that they are more effective in their job,” Romero said.

The governor said it was important that we learn from our past mistakes in policing and improve. 

He thanked the legislature for taking the rhetoric and heat out of the issues to get work done.

“This isn’t happening anywhere else,” he said, “where Republicans and Democrats are actually coming together to solve problems and make it better, and not just Republicans and Democrats, but law enforcement and activists in the community working side-by-side and hand-in-hand.”

Lawmakers said this was a good start and more work needs to be done, but the collaborative work they have done so far helps set the stage for more positive change.

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Governor Cox Signs 12 New Law Enforcement Bills