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Utah's governor meets with Black Lives Matter leader to talk policing reforms

Posted at 5:07 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 20:45:19-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Lex Scott pulled down her face mask and whispered excitedly to her TikTok audience.

"I'm in the governor's office! Say hi, Governor Herbert!" she said, pivoting the camera to a masked governor.

"Hi Governor Herbert!" the governor joked back.

Joking aside, Scott -- the head of Utah's Black Lives Matter movement -- met with Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the very serious subject of policing reforms. She spoke to FOX 13 after the meeting, which she described as "very positive."

"It just was great. It was an amazing meeting. I’m beyond pleased," she said.

Scott said she went into the meeting with a three-page list of requests that she'd like the governor to enact. She was careful to request things that Gov. Herbert was within his power to do. Asked how the governor responded, Scott said he was receptive.

"He said 'Everyone is on the same page when it comes to justice,'" she recalled.

The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the meeting, but previously his office has confirmed that it was he who reached out to Scott.

Gov. Herbert has been meeting with Black community leaders in the aftermath of protests against racism and police brutality that have taken place across the state. During one meeting with members of his own Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission, Gov. Herbert was moved to tears as he heard from people who shared their own experiences of racism in Utah and issues with police. He is scheduled to meet with them again later this month with policy proposals.

Scott said among the things she asked the governor for: a statewide Civilian Review Board; a registry for officer misconduct; implicit bias training for officers; increased diversity hiring in police agencies; more utilization of less-than-lethal weapons; greater public disclosure of body camera video; and naming officers involved in brutality or shooting cases.

Scott said she has found common ground with Republican lawmakers on Utah's Capitol Hill who are interested in legislation that enacts policing reforms. She has also spoken with Sen. Mitt Romney and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

"I don’t think police reform should be a Democrat or Republican issue," she said.

Dozens of bills are in the works in the legislature reacting to the demonstrations that came in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

"It’s an issue that’s near and dear to me. I raise two minority children. I care a lot about justice," said Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Mountain Green.

Rep. Birkeland said she is considering a bill on police restraint techniques.

"When somebody is already in handcuffs, there should be no more force used on that individual unless their actions put an officer or other individual in an immediate threat," she told FOX 13 on Wednesday.

Rep. Birkeland said she was also drafting a bill that would require more public disclosure of officer use of force and misconduct investigations.

"It just brings greater transparency to the whole process. If an officer has 20 complaints over 10 years and 15 of them are validated, well, what was the repercussion? What happened to this officer going forward? It just holds everyone accountable when we can see how it was investigated, what facts are brought to the table, who was involved in the investigation. We need to know these things at this time," she said.

Rep. Birkeland said she has been meeting with law enforcement groups who have been receptive to some of her ideas. Previous legislation already passed and signed by the governor has earned support from the Utah Chiefs of Police Association and the Utah Sheriff's Association.

Asked how she would feel about reform measures being implemented, Scott fought back tears in her interview with FOX 13.

"We'd change the entire state of Utah. I would just … the work that we do is worth it," she said. "It would be one of the most powerful moments of my life."