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Salt Lake City Police Chief: This Is Not Ferguson

Whittney Evans
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank

With all eyes on the death of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri and two recent officer involved shootings in Salt Lake City, Police Chief Chris Burbank opened his doors to members of the media today to discuss appropriate vs. inappropriate force.

Burbank took questions from the media for nearly an hour. He spoke generally about the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, about Geist, the Weimaraner that was shot dead by a Salt Lake City Police officer back in June, and 20-year-old Dillon Taylor who was shot dead by police last week while standing outside a 7-Eleven on 21st south. But Burbank was careful not to lump any of these cases together.

“We need to evaluate the officer given, here’s what they know, here’s what they see in that moment of time,” Burbank said.

Burbank noted the officer involved in the Taylor shooting was wearing a camera on his body and the entire incident has been captured on tape. He told reporters that footage will be released to the public at a later date. 

“The officer in this circumstance did not set out to use deadly force,” he said. “We have an unfortunate case where Dillon Taylor lost his life. But I cannot stress enough that this is not Ferguson.”

Burbank said two officers have been dismissed in the last five years for inappropriate use of force regarding a firearm.

“So we hold our officers accountable for their actions,” he said. “Our shootings are down, our officer involved shootings, it is never our intent and we should constantly evaluate our policy, training and procedure with every single incident.”

Burbank is an outspoken opponent of police militarization.  He says during his tenure as chief, the department has shied away from accepting surplus military equipment from the Defense Department. Burbank added, he does not send his officers into the field wearing riot gear.

According to SLCPD, 125 Salt Lake City Police officers are equipped with body cameras and that number will increase to 259 by the end of September. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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