By SOPHIA EPPOLITO Associated Press/Report for America (08/03)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City’s police department will implement stricter policies aimed at limiting the use of deadly force as protests against police brutality continue, the mayor announced Monday.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall signed an executive order Monday directing police Chief Mike Brown to enact several new policy changes, such as mandating deescalation tactics before using force, by Sept. 5. Previously, officers only needed to use “objectively reasonable” force, but under this order they must only use force when necessary and if it is proportionate to the situation.
“The people of this community deserve a city that is equitable for all who reside here,” Mendenhall told reporters.
Under this order, officers will be expected to act when they believe another officer is about to use force that is illegal or excessive. The order also includes disciplinary options for officers who fail to activate their body cameras, as well as supervisor oversight for every use of force, regardless of whether it leads to injury.
Officers will also be required to not engage in aggressive behavior that could escalate a situation and lead to use of force. They will also not be allowed to use deadly force to prevent someone from self-harming if that person is not a threat to other people.
Salt Lake City police announced it was formally banning chokeholds and prohibiting police from firing tear gas into crowds in early June. Brown said this new policy reflected what was already standard procedure for the department and that officers were never taught to use chokeholds.
The policy previously said tear gas could be used for crowd dispersal but now it can only be used “against barricaded suspects based on the circumstances.”
About a week later, Utah lawmakers voted to ban knee-to-neck chokeholds statewide, though the measure stopped short of criminalizing the use of all chokehold methods.
The mayor’s announcement comes as protests against racial injustice in policing have flared up around Salt Lake County this summer after calls for police reform intensified following George Floyd’s death. Floyd, a black man, died after a white officer pressed a knee to his neck in Minneapolis.
“These have been a difficult couple of months for our city, but nothing truly when compared to the lifetime of anxiety, concern and legitimate fear that people of color in our community and across the country live with every day,” Mendenhall said Monday.
Demonstrators clashed with police Sunday night during a protest over the death of a man who was fatally shot by police two years ago in the city of Cottonwood Heights. Officers took eight people into custody, including the father of the man who was shot.
The father and his wife blamed police for inciting conflict and ruining a peaceful rally intended to honor the memory of their son and bring attention to police brutality.
Cottonwood Heights police Lt. Dan Bartlett said officers used pepper spray, stun guns and batons during the arrests made after some protesters refused orders to keep to sidewalks in the suburban neighborhood.
He said police were kicked, choked and hit, sending five officers to a hospital with broken ribs, a broken nose and other injuries.
Mendenhall declined to comment on the protests after the briefing Monday.
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