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South Salt Lake Journal

Citizen Review Board starts to take form

Dec 08, 2020 03:57PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

For the past couple of months, the South Salt Lake City Council continues to work on creating a Citizen Review Board (CRB). They have made progress on the selection process, the scope and the board's budget impacts.

Besides these three issues, Council Member at-large Natalie Pinkney continues to ensure the board is independent of police or administration control.

“I’m excited about the ongoing conversations we are having about the creation of an oversight agency for our police department. It’s important that government ensures legitimacy with agencies that are supposed to be a check and balance system,” Pinkney said. “We can only do that when we make the oversight completely separate and clear of biases. The way we structure it and fund it ultimately shows our commitment to civil rights. The budget is where we show what we value and what we are willing to invest when it comes to racial justice, accountability and transparency.”

Selection process

In an Oct. 14 City Council meeting, several residents voiced concern about having Mayor Cherie Wood be part of the selection process. Their concerns centered on her family ties to law enforcement.

Later, Hannah Vickery, the city attorney, explained that the mayor must appoint the board according to state law.

In the subsequent meeting on Oct. 28, Wood outlined the selection process. 

“My objective for tonight is to share with residents and the City Council a clear and transparent five-step process for selecting members for this board,” Wood said. “Along with the valued advice and consent of the City Council, I will uphold the law by appointing a fair, unbiased and qualified Citizen Review Board. The members of the board will apply and be interviewed by a Selection Committee. At the close of their work, the Selection Committee will send their recommended members to me. I can then present these recommendations to the Council.”

The five steps are:

  1. Promote the Process: City will use various ways to announce the process. These ways include city utility bills, OTM monthly newsletter and social media.
  2. Call for CRB applications: The application will be available on the city’s website or by calling the mayor’s office.
  3. Hold a virtual information session: All applicants will receive an invitation. City staff will present information on the role and responsibility of the CRB along with Q&As.
  4. Appoint a selection committee: “An independent selection committee will include subject experts on areas of racial justice, equity, civics, community involvement and public safety.” 
  5. Appoint CRB members: Wood will review the selection committee recommendations. She will submit the names to the City Council for advice and consent as she does for Planning Commission members.

“I am not on the selection committee,” Wood said.

Since an ordinance establishing the CRB has not yet passed, no timetable for the applications or the selection committee is published.

Scope

The scope of the CRB is still in flux. However, a draft ordinance debated on Sept. 30 at the City Council meeting provides insight into what the Council is considering. The draft ordinance indicates the board will review “All uses of force by the City of South Salt Lake Police Department; and all vehicular pursuits.”

The draft ordinance defines “Use of Force” as “the application of an arrest control tactic, display or discharge of a firearm, display or use of a Taser, use of a chemical agent, use or deployment of a canine to effect an arrest, or intentional damage to property of another in an apparent show of force to effect an arrest, but not including compliant use of handcuffs.” 

An article on the “Use of Force” was published in the November edition of the City Journal.

Councilmember Shane Siwik, District 5, often spoke about adding no-knock warrants to the scope. Other members were warming up to the idea. However, a presentation by Chief Jack Carruth at the Oct. 28 work meeting showed how difficult that would be.

In his Warrants and Seizures presentation, Carruth said that no-knock warrants in SSL are executed by the Unified Police Department’s SWAT team. SSLPD provides five members to the UPD SWAT team. Year to date, the UPD SWAT has served 63 warrants throughout the county, including SSL.

To review no-knock warrants, the CRB would have to review UPD records. The SSL CRB will not have the authority to do so.

They are only used if there is a risk of life or possible destruction of evidence.

Pinkney asked if the city could ban no-knock warrants with an ordinance. Carruth replied that a city ordinance would not work since a warrant is issued by a judge and executed under their order.

Carruth mentioned the SSLPD had a 21 member SWAT team, but it put a strain on resources. A few years ago, SSLPD joined a partnership with UPD to share resources.

Even though SSLPD officers have body cameras when working as a member of UPD SWAT, they don’t wear them since UPD doesn’t use body cameras.

Later in a regular council meeting, Siwik said he was OK with not including no-knock warrants and property seizure in the CRB scope.

Budget impacts

City staff took their first stab at how much a CRB would cost and presented their findings at a Nov. 4 council meeting. While there are still some gaps in the estimate, Ray deWolfe, Council Member at-large, estimated the startup cost to be on the plus side of $500,000 with an annual cost of around $300,000.

Carruth led the presentation. Because of the need to support the CRB, he asked for a new lieutenant position and a crime analyst. He made a case for the new lieutenant position by explaining that currently, two sergeants and their officers (Community Policing and Homeless Resource Center) report directly to the deputy chief. With the need for CRB support, placing all three functions under a lieutenant improves the span of control.

In the crime analyst case, this position will support the CRB and the current crime analyst.

The additional startup cost comes from the need to provide secured devices that are Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) compliant.

Regarding stipend for CRB members, most of the council voiced they should receive the same compensation as Planning Commission members. Currently, commissioners are paid a $35 stipend for each meeting.

Carruth clarified that the funds to pay CRB members would not come out of the SSLPD budget, adding to the board's independence.

Next action

The council moved any further actions to a future meeting. They directed city staff to create a firmer cost estimate for startup and annual costs. As of this writing, any CRB discussion is not on any council agenda.

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