SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (KUTV) — South Salt Lake City Council, residents and the South Salt Lake Police Chief are in agreement that their city needs a civilian review board to investigate and advise on matters of police misconduct.
The scope of the board’s influence on police matters remains the big question.
In its Wednesday meeting, the South Salt Lake City Council will review the first draft of the ordinance that would govern the board. Councilwoman Natalie Pinkney, who has spearheaded some of the discussions, hopes the ordinance can be finalized and ready for a vote by the council by the end of 2020 so the board members can get to work by early 2021.
Others, like resident Jason Keffer, would like this to move faster. He’s attended council meetings to learn more about the creation of the board, hoping to become a member.
“I moved to a new community. It was the right time to get involved and make change,” Keffer said.
Keffer just bought a new home in a new neighborhood in the city and said he has no issues with officers in the community. But his concerns over police transparency and accountability started years ago, with the death of Eric Garner, who was put in a police chokehold in New York. Then, there was the recent killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. He died with a police officer's knee on his neck.
“Dave Chapelle put it this way: 'You can’t watch the George Floyd video and just go home,'” Keffer said.
Keffer said to him, it’s important that residents in the community not only look at incidents of police violence against residents, but police training, arrests, and even ticketing patterns.
“They are signals of potential problems,” he said.
Pinkney said although state law was recently created to limit the authority of civilian review boards in doling out discipline to officers and implementing changes to policy, a civilian review board can still have influence.
There are only two cities in Utah that currently have civilian review boards: Salt Lake City and West Valley City. Pinkney and city council chair Sharla Bynum confirmed the West Valley model is one they’d like to emulate for their own board.
At this point, the discussion will focus on the scope of the council’s influence. Pinkney said she wants to ensure that the board will be totally independent of the police department and have as much weight as possible.
“What happens when the citizen review board and the citizens want a harsher discipline than what the police chief agrees to? What do we do, where do we go from there?” she said.
Bynum said one consideration they can’t avoid is cost. West Valley City pays an attorney that advises the board.
South Salt Lake Police Chief Jack Carruth expressed support for the creation of the board in the city’s monthly newsletter, saying he supports the review of police policies. The use of force policy will also be reviewed at the meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
It has become particularly clear to me that forming a citizen review board in South Salt Lake isn’t an allegation of police deficiencies on behalf of our City Council Members, it’s a commitment of trust from our City Council to our community,” Carruth said.