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South Salt Lake Journal

Police chief provides update to council on practices, policies

Oct 26, 2020 04:06PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

At a Sept. 30 South Salt Lake City Council work meeting, Police Chief Jack Carruth gave a report comparing the SSLPD practices and policies against the 8 Can’t Wait police reform actions. 

In addition, Hannah Vickery, the city attorney, gave a presentation on the legal foundation for police officers use of force.

Objective Reasonable standard

Vickery started her presentation by explaining three objectives police have when they use force. The objectives are: detain or arrest a possible law breaker; self-defense; and protect another person.

The use of force is considered a seizure under the fourth amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure. When looking at a case, the court assess if the action was reasonable.

The idea of reasonableness is a key concept. The U.S. Supreme Court used two cases to help define reasonableness. In the first case, Tennessee vs. Garner, the court noted that the officer was reasonably sure that Garner was unarmed. Therefore, the court ruled that the use of deadly force against fleeing, nonviolent felons violated the fourth amendment.

The second case, Graham vs. Conner, concerned a diabetic man, Graham, who was driven to a convenience store by a friend to buy some orange juice to counteract an oncoming insulin reaction. He entered quickly and because of a long line, he exited quickly. An officer was suspicious about the behavior and made an investigatory stop.

Graham alerted the police about his condition but was handcuffed after he ran around the car twice. He ended up passing out on the side of the road. The officer believed he was drunk. Graham suffered multiple injuries.

“The court did write you could determine reasonableness based on the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than 20/20 hindsight and acknowledging officers are often forced to make split second judgments in circumstances that are tense and uncertain and rapidly evolving,” Vickery said. 

While the Supreme Court did not rule on the case, they did create a new legal standard of objective reasonableness. This new legal standard is imprecise, but it does give some direction to the courts to determine what is reasonable.

It is not completely clear what role police department policies are used to determine reasonableness. Some courts will look at policies and others do not.

“Generally, a violation of a clear and specific policy is treated as an unreasonable use of force,” Vickery said.

In Utah, there are specific state statutes that also guide court decisions.

All police policies are reviewed by the City Attorney’s office.

“The why is a key used often to determine reasonableness,” Vickery concluded.

8 Can’t Wait and SSLPD policies

Carruth stepped through each of the 8 Can’t Wait actions by comparing them to current SSLPD policies. See the accompanying chart for the comparison.

8 Can’t Wait is a project by Campaign Zero. They are calling for the eight actions (listed in the chart) to happen immediately. 

At the end of the presentation, chairperson Sharla Bynum said, “For me personally, I think this presentation satisfied my questions about the 8 Can’t Wait and our policies. I think there certainly will be a check and balance once the Citizen’s Review Board is in place.”

The council listed three additional subjects for future presentation. They are use of no-knock warrants, seizure of property, and the militarization of the police force.

Police training

“The POST (Police Office Standards and Training) training standard is 40 hours each year. Last year, the average in our department was 80 hours,” Danielle Croyle, SSLPD public information officer (PIO) and training coordinator said.

There is training presented each month on a variety of topics.

In October, the training was given by an external presenter, Mark Lowther with Talk To Me Crisis Communications. The training was on ways to de-escalate a situation.

Lowther mentioned that many of these tools are not new. They have been around for more than 50 years.

Once such tool is verbal judo. The process is to talk with a person, provide them with choices and explain the consequences. Give them a second chance to comply. If not, use force.

“We want to move past from verbal judo and ask, tell, make,” Lowther said.