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Millcreek holds 'policing town hall,' asks residents about UPD

Posted at 10:48 PM, Aug 17, 2020

MILLCREEK, Utah — Millcreek residents got to weigh in on what they think of the Unified Police Department Monday evening in a city-hosted policing town hall meeting.

Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said they hoped to create a safe space as residents gave their thoughts on topics like mental health services, de-escalation training, racial profiling, and body cameras.

"We just felt that it was important to engage with our community, and to listen," Silvestrini said.

He described how it was an "opportunity for our council to learn about our police force, and how we might make it better. What people like about it, what they don't like about it."

Silvestrini talked about how the town hall was born partly out of comments they've received from citizens recently after events and discussions happening locally and across the country.

"I've had people express that they want to be heard on this issue," he said. "And it's an issue that is important to a lot of people, so we're listening tonight."

He said now is also the perfect time to take a look at UPD, because they will need to reimagine the department with Taylorsville leaving UPD next year.

So, they listened to feedback from citizens and residents.

Some said they are satisfied with the current service and talked about how they support officers in the Unified Police Department.

Others gave suggestions for improvement and talked about areas of reform that they'd like to see.

A few people came to the town hall to express their thoughts in person.

David Baird spoke at the podium, focusing on prevention through better mental health resources and treatment. He explained that social workers and counselors have a better long-term effect on avoiding violent conflicts.

"I strongly support the deployment of additional funds for the mental health unit of the Unified Police Department," he said.

Lex Scott with Black Lives Matter Utah, who said she grew up in Millcreek, said that if looking at police reform, they look at things like data collection if they want to know who is being profiled. They also look at de-escalation for police, and diversity training for implicit bias, she explained.

She told the council that not everyone at UPD has body cams.

"If you're going to give that money, please make sure that it goes toward de-escalation training and body cams," she urged. "Because they do not have enough body cams for their entire police force."

Some citizens called in on the phone to voice their opinions.

One woman who called said that with 46 percent of the Millcreek City budget going to UPD, she had ideas of how she'd like that money used.

"I think some money ought to go to policy experts so you're not relying on citizens to do that work, reparations for victims of police brutality, and transparent investigations of the community complaints of misconduct," she said.

Many other citizens wrote letters, which Mayor Silvestrini and other council members took turns reading aloud.

"Every institution is imperfect and needs reform," said Silvestrini, reading a letter. "Destroying or defunding the police is not the answer."

Councilwoman Bev Uipi read another letter.

"Millcreek residents would be well-served with an empowered civilian review board, representing racial diversity among officers, effective bias and de-escalation training," she read.

Silvestrini said that UPD was not invited to attend the town hall in person, because he wanted to keep it as a safe space between the city and constituents.

However, he said UPD would have been able to watch and listen in on the livestream.

Silvestrini said listening to these comments is the first step for Millcreek City.

"We will evaluate the input we get; we will determine whether it needs to be acted upon," he said. "And if we conclude that it does, then we will do that."