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U.S. Marshal rebuts Salt Lake County DA’s comments on February task force operation

Posted at 8:44 PM, Sep 21, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — A lengthy statement made over the weekend by the U.S. Marshals Service District of Utah points directly at Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill regarding comments made toward Department of Justice policy and other views.

“We take issue with the seemingly political positions shown in the body of the report and comments made publicly by the DA,” said District of Utah U.S. Marshal Matthew Harris on Monday in a press briefing. “We also question the motivation in trying to drive a wedge between the federal and local partnerships during this critical time in history.”

Harris says that Gill’s office made false statements regarding the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (VFAST) and the body-worn camera policy within the task force.

“The DA’s office should not be lobbying the state legislature and how this task force operates, especially in the body of an officer-involved shooting report,” said Harris, referring to a footnote in a recently released report clearing officers in their use of deadly force in a February operation. “His job is to call balls and strikes — that’s his job."

The note in a report released by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office read in part: “A policy prohibiting body-worn cameras can significantly undermine our ability to independently decipher the truth. The Utah State Legislature may want to consider a statute that requires Utah law enforcement officers to wear body-worn cameras in their interactions with our community, whether the officer acts as an agent of the State or part of a federal task force or other enforcement capacity.”

“We don’t get political — we put bad guys in jail, and we don’t care how we do it. But we want to keep this community safe,” said Harris, who also claimed that his office did not get the officer-involved critical incident report prior to release, therefore they didn’t have an opportunity to discuss the body-worn camera policy.

FOX 13 obtained an email which indicated the OICI report was sent to a number of people for approval, comment and review prior to its release on Friday. Included in the email list of recipients was Matthew Harris, on an email list sent just before 3 p.m. on Thursday.

The Salt Lake County DA responded to FOX 13’s request for comment with five “corrections” to a previously released press release from the U.S. Marshals Service over the weekend.

“It seems that the Marshall's Office is trying to make noise to distract from their own misguided policy,” the DA’s response noted.

To read the full statement from the U.S. Marshals, click here.

To read the full letter on the February incident from Gill, click here.