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Some Utah Lawmakers Worry About Police Safety With Proposed Deadly Force Reforms

Photo of police officers and men in camouflage outfitted with riot gear. There are tan military vehicles and a police cruiser in the background.
Kelsie Moore

Some Utah state lawmakers are questioning whether suggestions to restrict when law enforcement can use deadly force could put those officers in more danger. 

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office presented the proposals to the Legislature’s Criminal Code Evaluation Task Force Thursday. The discussion comes in the wake of the Salt Lake City police killing of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal in May. The officers involved were cleared last month, which prompted protests

The proposals include holding officers to the same standard of self defense as the public, and requiring law enforcement to use the least deadly weapon available to them that would still be effective. 

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfiled, who chairs the task force, said he’s concerned that restricting when law enforcement can use deadly force could cause them to hesitate more. 

“I fully support law enforcement,” Ray said. “I just can't see putting officers in a position where they have to question. That slight hesitation could cost them their lives.”

Rep. Mark Wheatley, D- Salt Lake City, said many of the ideas presented should be discussed further by lawmakers. 

“The notion that an agent of the government has the authority to shoot and kill somebody — there's something about that that causes people concern,” Wheatley said. “I understand that these are incredibly complicated situations but ... I think that the public is asking now for the Legislature to examine this issue.”

According to Ray, the Legislature likely won’t vote on any police reform bills until next year’s General Session, which starts in January. 


Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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