Cox to sign bill that limits public, journalist access to some police statements

Mar 5, 2022, 12:03 AM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY —The Utah Legislature worked until the last minutes of its lawmaking session Friday, including sending one bill to Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox that will keep some statements by police away from the public and the media.

Governor will sign “Garrity bill”

Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox joined Utah’s Morning News to talk about what he might sign if it makes it across his desk in these final hours.

The governor said he will sign a bill that is designed to protect specific statements of government workers from public records requests. Critics say this makes it more difficult to get information and could undermine the public trust in police and other taxpayer-funded employees. It stems from a case where The Salt Lake Tribune is requesting records from the City of West Jordan that the paper has been denied.

“It passed unanimously,” Cox said. “So this is one Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on — which is rare in this day and age, although not as rare here in Utah. So we’ll wait for that to come across our desk.”

A Republican also voted no in the full House vote. That coming from Rep. Phil Lyman, Blanding.

The so-called Garrity Bill, also known as H.B. 399, passed through the Senate last night “under suspension of the rules.” This means there was no debate or public hearing about the bill. And because of that, the bill required only one vote to clear the Senate.

Garrity specifically targets the laws that govern Utah’s public records, known as GRAMAIt passed from the House to the Senate around two weeks ago.

When asked about his no vote, Lyman sent KSL NewsRadio this statement:

“Utah provides that certain records may be classified by the government as “protected,” meaning that they are not available to the public through a records request. Prior to the passage of HB399, there were 83 categories of protected records in Utah code. HB399 brings that total to 84. And the records protected are statements made by an employee of a governmental entity in relation to an investigation related to potential misconduct by the employee. 

Why should government actors have protections that citizens don’t have? In fact, the increase in protections for governments and their agents is growing while the rights of citizens are being trampled. There are records that should be protected, but the records identified in this bill are exactly those records that should be accessible through reasonable means. Denying access to employee statements related to official misconduct denies potential justice to people who have been harmed by that misconduct. This bill is a huge step in the wrong direction.”



Have you ever seen a story about a government agencies internal investigation?

Maybe an interview with officers after a critical incident?

A bill @SpencerJCox could be signing will limit public transparency to see those statements.

HB 399 “the Garrity bill”🧵#utpol pic.twitter.com/CylFBogYfQ

— Morgan Wolfe (@MorganWolfeKSL) March 4, 2022

KSL 5 TV Live

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Cox to sign bill that limits public, journalist access to some police statements