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SLCPD And Black Community Leaders Meet To Talk Tactics, Improvement

Photo of people meeting in a board room.
Jon Reed
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown listens to a comment from Ahmad Corbitt with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Salt Lake City Police Department met with leaders of the state’s black community Tuesday to hear about their concerns over police brutality. Officers also explained the tactics they use, such as how they are trained to use force and conduct internal investigations. 

The meeting came after destructive protests nationwide and in Salt Lake City, sparked by the in-custody death of George Floyd and lingering questions over how officers should detain suspects and calm violence. 

Officer Mark Buhman said part of his role was to explain the steps SLCPD is taking to make sure police are treating everyone fairly. He said the department might not have all the answers now, but has been working on making improvements. Officers, for example, are now required to take several courses on assessing their own biases, he said. 

“Sometimes the honest answer is we can't tell everybody that everything's going to be perfect and that sometimes history won't repeat itself,” Buhman said. “What we're trying to say is we're taking steps to try not to have these things happen again.”

Several officers demonstrated how they use a wrap restraint, a device for detaining someone who’s being violent or disruptive while reducing the possibility of injury. 

“It’s important to share this information with the general public,” said Forrest Crawford, a professor of teacher education at Weber State University. “A lot of citizens assume that the way you restrain someone is to just grab them and jack them up. And so part of what we learn today is that there are proper ways in which they're trained to be able to intervene.” 

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said it was helpful to get the officers’ perspective, but also to share what she’s heard from her constituents’ experiences with police. 

Hollins said the dialogue is important because part of the anger and violence seen in protests in Salt Lake and around the country are the result of young people feeling like they aren’t being heard. 

“There is an African proverb that says that if youth don't feel the warmth of the community, they're going to create their own fire,” she said. “And I think that's what's going on. We understand they're frustrated. We understand their anger. And we want to be that listening ear.”

Jon Reed is a reporter for KUER. Follow him on Twitter @reedathonjon

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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