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Week 2: Utah’s Take On Police Reform

Kelsie Moore/KUER

After a summer of protests and counter-protests about police brutality, Utah lawmakers have already introduced a number of bills on the issue. And while police reform is divisive, a lot of stakeholders agree that law enforcement in Utah does need to change on some level. But that’s where things get messy — some people are looking for incremental changes, like better data collection and more uniform rules about bodycam footage. Others want to see police abolished altogether, right now.

Hosts Emily Means and Sonja Hutson look at how Utah found itself ready to talk about police brutality and what reforms are on the table this year.


  • Rae Duckworth, Vice President of Black Lives Matter Utah
  • Ian Adams, Executive Director of the Utah State Fraternal Order of Police

Rae Duckworth Interview Highlights:

Interview transcripts have been edited for length and clarity.

On how police protests this summer influenced the legislative agenda

Emily Means: What role do you think last year's protests had in this year's police reform legislation?

Rae Duckworth: I think it caused people to take police reform seriously. I think it caused people to ask more questions than they were originally, which is always a good thing — there's no such thing as a dumb question. The protests really provoked people to open their eyes and get out of this "glass box" or this ideology that sometimes we pre-set in Utah. That there's no wrongdoing here and we really live in this glass box. But it was beneficial for the community as a whole.

It's crazy to think that there's so many police reform bills up on the Hill right now. But at the same time, it leaves that beautiful spark of hope that one might pass. And if one might pass, then one murder by police might get justice.

On the laws Black Lives Matter Utah would support

RD: We want body cam footage — high resolution, unedited, with sound available to the family who loses loved ones in police situations. We want them to get it within 10 days. And we are in favor of repealing H.B. 415.

EM: H.B. 415 prevents the creation of citizen review boards for police. Why do you think [repealing] that would be helpful?

RD: Because that puts the power back in the hands of the community. Right now it's an appointed team that reviews, but the problem with that is it's a conflict of interest. If the mayor appoints the chief of police and then appoints this civilian review board, she's basically saying, "oh, the left hand made a mistake. That's OK. My right hand's got my left hand's back." It's conflicting, it doesn't make any sense, and I can't believe that we allowed that. If we repeal H.B. 415, then we are able to have active community members on this board and people who are actively in situations where either the police are harassing them because of demographics, or whatever the case is. Community members won't leave other community members hanging out to dry.

On what police reform can accomplish

EM: You said if we pass one police reform bill, that puts us on the right path and shows that this is a priority. So what can police reform legislation actually accomplish?

RD: It'll be that first little step toward creating trust between the community and the system. There are so many flaws in the system. We see the system with the flaws as it is, and all we want is to fix it. It's not one of those situations where we can just go in, tear the whole thing down and start from scratch.

Ian Adams Interview Highlights

Interview transcripts have been edited for length and clarity.

On what police need in order to reduce confrontations

Emily Means: Everyone wants there to be fewer confrontations and less use of deadly force. In your view, what is the most important tool to get there?

Ian Adams: The most important tool for us to get anywhere right now is better and more data. And what I mean by “better” is consistent, and statewide, and continuous collection. We can't continue to respond to these things with no numbers to even understand the extent of the issues that we're talking about.

Angela Romero does have a bill that gets us closer to that goal. It's still not in my mind enough, and I don't think anybody thinks it's enough. But “enough,” in this case, is going to involve actual money being spent by the state legislators towards that goal. We're going to have to — at some point — adopt the practices of other states and begin really rigorously collecting this data so that stakeholders on all sides know the context of what they're talking about. Right now, we don't.

Stories Referenced:

Bills Referenced:

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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