NewsLocal News


‘That’s excessive force’: outside attorney reviews SLC police-protester clash footage

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 12, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Police Department is still looking for suspects to arrest after Tuesday night's Inland Port protest at the Salt Lake Chamber. Police are also conducting an internal investigation, reviewing each officer's use of force to determine whether it is within department guidelines.

Robert Sykes, a civil rights attorney who often represents clients who sue law enforcement, is not representing anyone in this case. He said there's no doubt the people who refused to leave the Salt Lake Chamber committed a crime and deserved to be arrested.

He also said, for the most part, he believes police did a good job getting the situation under control.

"These officers are human beings too, and they’re under a lot of stress here. A lot of stress," Sykes said. "The arrests can be lawful, but the force can also be excessive."

Sykes said he was particularly concerned with a piece of body camera video showing the arrest of a young woman. The woman appears to be the second person arrested at the protest.

"You're breaking my wrist!" she screams at an officer, bending her hand at an awkward angle.

"No we're not," the officer responds.

"You broke my wrist!" she later responds, while lying on the floor. "I think you broke my wrist."

"That's excessive force," Sykes said as he watched the footage. "There was no excuse for that... That actually hurt me to look at it."

Sykes said officers are only allowed to use the minimum amount of force necessary to make an arrest. Officers are not allowed to match the level of violence inflicted upon them, especially if the intent is to punish someone.

"I don’t see everything around them, but she wasn’t being so disruptive that they had a right to break her wrist," Sykes said.

Minutes later, according to the same body camera video, the officer told other protestors to sit still while they are being handcuffed, in an effort to avoid similar situations.

"Look, we don't want to hurt you," he told one protestor.

Sykes also commented on the actions of a sergeant who has received criticism for the way he handled protestors.

Video shows the sergeant swinging his elbow at a protestor's face as he attempts to close a door at the Salt Lake Chamber. The sergeant then received multiple blows to his head and face.

"I think he lost his temper. Now, should he have? No," Sykes said. "It looks to me like, in that situation, force may have been necessary. I don’t know."

At a press conference on Thursday, Chief Mike Brown said it is "too soon" to evaluate the actions of his officers because of the pending investigation. He said the department will be compiling an after-action review to document lessons learned from the protest.

Brown also said he will be asking the Citizen Review Board to take a look at the incident.