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Utah House Committee Approves Four Police Reform Bills

A photo of protestors at a Black Lives Matter protest.
KUER File Photo
Last summer’s police brutality protests have led the Utah Legislature to consider around a dozen police reform bills.

A Utah House committee unanimously approved four bills Tuesday aimed at gathering more data about police use of force and strengthening the disciplinary processes for law enforcement.

The state Legislature is considering around a dozen police reform bills this session in the wake of last summer’s protests against police brutality.

  • Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, law enforcement agencies must provide information about an open investigation into an officer’s conduct to another law enforcement agency that requests it during the hiring process.

“[The bill] works to prevent peace officers from staying ahead of discipline,” Iwamoto said. “Because when they quit ... the internal investigation stops and the officer can seek employment elsewhere.”

  • Law enforcement officers would have to file a report every time they point a gun or a taser at someone under a bill from Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City. Officers wouldn’t have to file a report if that incident was during a training exercise or an officer involved critical incident, including injuring or killing someone with that weapon. The report would include a description of the event and “the identification of the individuals involved in the incident.”

“It could benefit law enforcement and the public so they can see that the decisions that officers are making when they decide not to pull the trigger,” said Scott Stephenson, the director of the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training department (POST). “We're not capturing that data. Frankly, the only time we hear of some semblance of that information is when a bad situation is happening and an officer has pulled their trigger.”

  • A bill from Sen. David Buxton, R-Roy, calls for the state to spend $2 million on equipment to help law enforcement agencies investigate officer involved shootings. Agencies would have to apply for grants and match the amount of money the state awards them.

“It really just kind of sets up some rules, some guidelines and then how the purchases are handled when they do [use] that equipment,” said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, the bill’s floor sponsor.

  • Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, is sponsoring a bill that would increase the ability of POST to discipline law enforcement officers. Under the bill, POST could issue a warning or revoke an officer’s certification if they show dishonesty or deception when violating policy or if they “knowingly engaged in biased or prejudicial” behavior.

“This was a very important bill to law enforcement,” said Wade Carpenter, President of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association. “We also felt it was very important to have the level of transparency that this bill brings. This gives law enforcement the opportunity to deal with issues where dishonesty or deception is involved.”

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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