In response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police and continued protests across the country, Utah’s Republican gubernatorial candidates are calling for police reforms and respect for law enforcement.
None of them support defunding the police.
Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes called Floyd’s death repulsive.
“It’s a human dignity issue,” Hughes said. “It really doesn't fall on race, color, creed. You just don't treat human beings that way.”
To prevent incidents like that, he wants reforms like requiring police to report misconduct of other officers.
But throughout these conversations about reform, “let's make sure we remind our kids that when things get scary, when things are tough, when we expect public safety and the ability to walk through our communities safely, our law enforcement and our police officers — they're the good guys,” Hughes said.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said he wants to promote dialogue between law enforcement and citizens. He supports things like banning chokeholds and requiring de-escalation training, but is not behind efforts to defund the police.
“That will have a devastating effect on all our communities, especially our multicultural communities,” Cox said. “That's just a terrible, terrible overreach of this moment and this issue. And in fact, we probably need more and better training for our officers.”
Proponents of defunding the police are suggesting diverting that money to social services. Cox said the state needs to fund both.
“I do support increasing funding for social services,” he said. “If we do better in that area, then there will be less of a need for people in the criminal justice system because we're getting upstream of these problems.”
If elected, Former Utah Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright said he would direct the commissioner of public safety to institute new racism training.
“We can lead by example in doing what we can to be a contributing, listening and attentive voice to the racism that we need to tackle and deal with in our society,” Wright said.
Beyond that, he said he wants to take some time to listen before proposing additional changes.
“I don't want to be too reactive because I think the best solutions will come from being thoughtful and being deliberate,” Wright said.
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman said in a statement that banning chokeholds is a step in the right direction, but those “token changes” aren’t enough.
“We need leaders who will bring people to the table and do the hard work of building relationships of trust between the people and those who are trusted to protect and serve our communities,” Huntsman said.
The Republican Primary is June 30 and will be conducted almost entirely by mail. The voter registration deadline is June 19.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson