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South Salt Lake Journal

SSL Citizen Review Board starts to take shape

Sep 21, 2020 03:08PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

During the Aug.12 City Council work meeting, the council continued to discuss the Citizens Review Board. Between the last work meeting on July 22 and this one, council members met in small groups with city staff to better understand what the board can do and what it can’t do legally.

Areas of consensus

Since Sharla Bynum, City Council chairperson, attended each small group session, she started the work meeting by summing up the areas where there is agreement.

City Council members want to make sure the board is diverse and represents all stakeholders including the police department. 

It is suggested that at least two business owners are on the board.

The board will be a recommending body to the City Council. The board will report to the council on a regular basis.

Residents will serve a one- or two-year term. They will meet monthly and be compensated like Planning Commission members.

The board will also receive a lot training to help with their deliberations. The board most likely will have seven members with two alternates.

Areas still open

Bynum said there was still two areas open for discussion. The first is the scope and the second is how members are selected.

Bynum begun the discussion by reminding members that scope is tied to resources and it is important to be realistic given the bare bones budget they recently passed. 

All councilmembers supported the recommendation that all Use of Force incidents should be reviewed by the board. However, the definition of Use of Force is open for interpretation. 

For example, the National Institute of Justice promotes a Use of Force Continuum. Moving from low to high, the continuum is Officer Presence moving to Verbalization moving to Empty-Hand Control (the officer uses bodily force to gain control of the situation), moving to Less-Lethal Methods (officers may use a baton or a Taser), and finally moving to Lethal Force.

A question not yet discussed in a public meeting is where along the continuum does the Citizens Review Board start to review the actions of the police.

Bynum reported that Police Chief Jack Carruth said in a small group meeting that there is an average of 30 Use of Force incidents per month.

Corey Thomas, District 2, suggested adding car chases to the scope because of the potential damage they may cause.

Ray deWolfe, councilmember at-large, suggested adding level 1 citizen complaints.

Natalie Pinkney, councilmember at-large, spoke further on the board handling complaints. She mentioned that some minority community members are afraid to go to the police department to file a complaint and the board should receive complaints. She also continued to voice concern about the power of the board.

“What teeth does the board have?” Pinkney asked.

Shane Siwik, District 5, suggested adding “No-Knock” warrants and seizing high ticket property to the scope.

In summary, the scope went from the Use of Force to additional four areas for review. The council will need to balance a larger scope with the reality of smaller resources.

Members selected

deWolfe suggested each council member be allowed to nominate one member. Each nomination will be approved by the City Council. Each nominee would provide a resume helping the council know their qualifications.

Some members voiced concern over that plan because members would nominate people they know, which might not give the board the diversity needed.

Pinkney favors open recruitment using an application process. She mentioned that this would allow people who aren’t known to the council but want to serve to get involved.

deWolfe countered by pointing out an application process could be difficult. He asked, “Who would select the members?”

Pinkney replied, “Appoint a director who will choose the members.”

Next steps

At the close of the work meeting, Bynum said the council will continue to work on the board. The board is planning to observe the West Valley City Review Board to learn best practices.

deWolfe offered his opinion on next steps.

“I think we need to move quicker than slower. Let’s get something in place and then fix what isn’t working,” deWolfe said.

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