SALT LAKE CITY -- In an effort to improve police transparency, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has ordered that all Civilian Review Board reports be made public.
The review board investigates officer-involved shootings and complaints of excessive force, and, until now, their reports were considered protected documents.
“This is something that I’ve never been opposed to,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank.
Last Friday, the mayor signed an executive order that directed the city to release the reports, with the exception of cases that may have “unusually sensitive privacy interests.” Given the public scrutiny of officer involved shootings in Utah and around the country, Burbank commended the decision.
“Open, transparent interaction is the reason that Salt Lake City, in my mind, has not had some of the problems that other places have had,” Burbank said.
The department has faced criticism for recent shootings, including one in August that killed Dillon Taylor, 20, in South Salt Lake.
“I think it’s a good decision moving forward,” said Gina Thayne, Dillon Taylor’s aunt, about the announcement.
Taylor was not armed when an officer shot him outside of a 7-Eleven. Both the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the review board found the officer justified, ruling he had a reason to fear for his life.
“It’s not going to help Dillon’s case; they’ve already made their decision,” Thayne said. “But I do think that in the future that people are going to be more aware. And I think having someone on the outside look at these things, yeah I do, I think it will make a big difference.”
While previous requests for review reports had been denied under stringent GRAMA language, the city felt it was time to reevaluate the policy.
“It’s recognition of ongoing discussions of use of force issues, both locally and at the national level,” City Spokesman Art Raymond said.
The review board is made up of local residents from each city council district. Any ruling they make is then sent to the city’s police chief for consideration. The chief is not required to take any disciplinary action.
“We do a good job,” Burbank said. “We don’t have anything to protect or to hide, as far as that’s concerned.”
The report regarding Dillon Taylor is available below.