Cottonwood Heights at center of hearing on police abuse of power

Posted at 9:55 PM, Oct 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-22 12:49:41-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Statewide allegations of police abusing their power was the subject of a senate committee hearing Wednesday, but all the focus seemed to be on the small community of Cottonwood Heights.

After hours of testimony from various police agencies, Senator Todd Weiler invited Steve Unger to share his experience at the very end of the hearing. Unger described his August encounter with Cottonwood Heights police in detail, when he was detained and charged after dancing on the sidewalk. The charges against him were just dropped last week.

“The charges were dropped in a press release that I found very condescending, extremely insensitive, and very dismissive: Exactly the way I was treated on the street,” Unger said.

Unger was the only one allowed to speak, but he wasn’t the only person in the room who had complaints about Cottonwood Heights Police.

Lani Roberts, who owns a 7-Eleven franchise in Cottonwood Heights, says harassment by Cottonwood Heights police has caused her business to suffer so much in the past few years that she’s had to lay off five employees.

“What the police officers have done to us, to the community, and just pretty much anybody that drives through the city, they need to be looked at," Roberts said. "They need to be looked at."

As city manager, John Park says it’s frustrating that Cottonwood Heights is being singled out in this way.

“It’s very frustrating that we’re zeroing in on a couple perhaps mistakes in the Unger case and listening to these allegations over and over again that we believe have no merit,” Park said.

Park admits that Cottonwood Heights police could’ve acted differently in the case with Steve Unger, but when it comes to the complaints on the business owners, Park says there is no truth to the claims that they’ve been specifically targeted by Cottonwood Heights police.