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Lawmakers proposing police reform bills in aftermath of killings, protests

Posted at 2:12 PM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 22:04:12-04

SALT LAKE CITY — In response to the killings of black people and the local and national protests over it, lawmakers on Utah's Capitol Hill are proposing bills dealing with police reforms.

Jeanetta Williams, the president of the Salt Lake branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said Republicans and Democrats are being asked to run bills.

"Impose strict police accountability, limit the use of force, eliminate racial profiling, de-militarize law enforcement, track and report data and ensure proper screening, education and training of all officers," she said at a news conference Friday.

She asked Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, to run some of those bills. He told FOX 13 he would run legislation that would regulate use of force by police, set officer discipline protocol, and mandate civilian review boards for police departments statewide.

"On these three bills, the NAACP specifically called on issues they wanted addressed that I had not tackled before. They specifically called out issues that had been set aside. They specifically called out issues and asked for our support. On these three issues, I am not a leader. I am listening, I am hearing, and I am following," he told reporters Friday.

Sen. Thatcher is not the only one running such legislation. Racial and ethnic minority lawmakers in the House and Senate Democratic caucuses said they were also crafting bills.

"We are grateful that our allies and legislative colleagues are reaching out in support and partnership. Ending systemic racism begins with each one of us. It happens when individuals decide they will no longer see people of color through a deficit lens. We are confident that legislative political will is bending towards justice because of growing and powerful voices from the public. Our goal remains to uplift our constituents and Utah’s communities of color. We will be moving forward and talking more about specific legislation in the coming days," the statement by Reps. Sandra Hollins, Angela Romero, Karen Kwan, and Mark Wheatley and Sens. Luz Escamilla and Jani Iwamoto said.

Democrats were not present at Friday's news conference. Williams told reporters she didn't care who ran the bills, so long as they passed.

"We’re going to work with anybody and everybody who comes to the table to say 'let’s get this work done,'" she said. "We’re not looking to see who’s going to take credit for it, we’re just going to say let’s get it done."

At least initially, the policy ideas have support from law enforcement organizations. The Utah Chiefs of Police Association said it welcomes a discussion about the ideas.

Ian Adams, who leads the Fraternal Order of Police, the state's largest officer's union, told FOX 13 he was supportive.

"Bettering the person behind the badge and humanizing them is always one of our main goals. Education’s certainly a part of that. Ongoing training is certainly a part of that. And we support efforts aimed in that direction," he said.

Adams went further and said the FOP would lobby to have a group like the NAACP have a seat on Utah's Peace Officer Standards & Training Council. That is the body that certifies and disciplines all police officers in Utah. Adams, who said he supports Williams and the NAACP's efforts, said their perspective ought to be heard on officer discipline that rises to POST Council level.

"We think it’s important. That council is ultimately responsible for censuring and making decisions about officer certification. The NAACP is absolutely got a voice to be heard in that process. We think it’s important they be offered that seat," he said.

Any bills would not likely be heard until the 2021 legislative session that starts in January. Williams praised protesters who have taken to the streets in recent days to demand justice and police accountability. She urged them to take some time to call their elected lawmakers to demand policing reforms pass the legislature.