2020 Personal Security Committee Report

Equal Justice: A Case for Transformational

Police Reform

Introduction and Summary of Major Positions

All Utahns have the right to personal security, including freedom from physical harm and psychological abuse, whether experienced within the family or within the community at large; and one of government’s sacred constitutional obligations–at every level –is to protect and defend the public from threats to its safety and well-being. Under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution that duty further requires and guaranties equal protection to every member of our society, without exception.

The State and its political subdivisions endeavor to provide that security through law enforcement and the criminal justice system, but the revelations of 2020 have made inescapable the fact that significant inequalities, injustices, and inefficiencies exist in our law and justice systems, and they will no longer be tolerated by the public.

In the shock and anguish following the deaths of George Floyd and Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, the shooting of 13-year old Linden Cameron, who is autistic, during a mental health crisis, and the mauling of Jeffery Ryans, who is African American, by a police K-9 unit, calls for reform by public officials and private citizens across the state have been universal: Something must be done. The only question is: How do we go about it?

The Governor, the Utah Legislature, the Salt Lake City Mayor and City Council, the Salt Lake Police Department, the Police Officer Standards and Training Agency, and others, have rushed to open investigations and implement initial procedural reforms to address some of the most obvious issues, but everyone understands much more is required.

Many options and approaches are being studied and considered–from procedural reform to structural change, and the Utah Citizens’ Counsel believes both are necessary to achieve true equal justice under law. As always, though, the devil is in the details; and, as recent legislative audits have revealed, much of the data needed to identify and assess the problems with specificity is not readily available due to diverse and siloed information systems and a lack of coordination and communication among the various geographic regions and levels of government, creating technical and administrative challenges and, in some instances, serious public safety concerns. The UCC, therefore:

  • Endorses the recommendations of legislative auditors and urges lawmakers to create the structure and provide the funding to implement reforms with respect to law enforcement and criminal justice data collection, assimilation, reporting, communication, and transparency;
  • Endorses the recommendations of the Governor, members of the Legislature, the Salt Lake City Mayor, City Council and Police Chief, to conduct a thorough assessment of police policies and practices, on a state and local basis, to identify equal justice issues, and fund and implement needed procedural and structural reforms.

The following report addresses both the need for and process of transformational reform.

To access a pdf version of the full report click here: Personal Security

Article 5 (Personal Security) Committee Members

               Pat Christensen

               Dee Rowland

               Nancy Haanstad