NAACP: Grand Co. Sheriff agrees to diversity training after deputy twirled lasso in search for Black man
SALT LAKE CITY — The Grand County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to hold sensitivity and diversity training following public outcry over a deputy twirling a lasso while searching for a Black man, the head of the NAACP in Utah told KSL.
Sheriff Steven White made the commitment last week, according to Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake branch.
“We had a good conversation,” said Williams, who got in touch with the sheriff following a KSL report on the deputy’s actions. “And in talking to him, I took him at his word. He’s going to ask for my input, and I told him to call me anytime.”
Leaders within Utah’s Black community condemned the deputy’s actions, saying they evoke the nation’s history of slave patrols and of widespread lynchings of Black men.
Deputy Amanda Edwards did not find the man she was searching for on July 10 in Moab, a tourist town in southeast Utah. She walked past homes and shops, twirling the lasso in the air intermittently for about a half-hour, telling onlookers about her plan to use the tool.
Edwards later wrote in a report that she made the comments in a “joking manner.” White told the KSL Investigators in October that the deputy had taken responsibility for her behavior but offered no details. He did not respond to multiple requests for interviews for this story.
The deputy was suspended for two days without pay, according to disciplinary documents obtained through a public records request.
In tossing the lasso about while searching for the Black man accused of stealing sunglasses, the deputy violated the sheriff’s department policy, White previously told KSL.
The move to provide training is no surprise to Williams, a 20-year veteran of the West Valley City Police Department’s civilian review board. Amid public outcry, the sheriff’s office “had to do something,” Williams said.
“It wasn’t a situation where, ‘We’re just not going to do anything. We’re just going to ignore it, and hope that it will go away,’” she said.
It’s unclear whether the training will happen before White retires in January, and if not, whether the incoming Sheriff will follow through with that commitment. Grand County voters will choose his successor in Tuesday’s election.
If the deputy repeats the behavior, a letter addressed to Edwards and signed by her supervisors states the conduct “will be promptly dealt with and could result in immediate disciplinary action,” including potential termination.
Edwards was also placed on a 90-day corrective action plan that appears to order 18 hours of training on topics including standards of conduct, use of force, and defensive tactics, the records show.
But the corrective plan wasn’t part of the discipline, the letter states.
“The plan is not designated to be a punishment; rather, its purpose is to support you in succeeding in your work assignments,” the letter says. “Please recognize the plan as such.”
The letter includes a nationally recognized law enforcement code of ethics that directs officers to respect “the constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.” The code applies to “all calls for service to our community,” the supervisor wrote.
It also contains more praise than criticism, commending Edwards’ communication skills and professionalism toward members of the public she did encounter during her search. The body camera video shows Edwards stopping to chat with several people that day, including speaking with a passerby in Spanish.
“I feel strongly that with your limited time of service in our agency, an uncanny potential for an outstanding career along with a core value of outstanding ethics remains intact,” the letter states. “As your overall supervisor the outstanding performance you exhibit on a daily basis is very noteworthy.”
The deputy’s actions don’t affect her supervisor’s trust in her, the letter continues.
“I commend your honest integrity in divulging the totality of the incident and remain convinced you will grow in your ability overcoming this matter,” it says. “My trust and confidence in your ability has not waivered as you continue your career as a member of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.”
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