Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown today announced a series of significant reforms to SLCPD’s use of force, body worn camera, and search and seizure policies.
“The people of this community deserve a city that is equitable for all who reside here. We are committed to that, and meaningful institutional changes to the way our city is policed are a key ingredient in that progress,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “These seven reforms are the beginning of our work, not the end. We will see additional reforms in the coming weeks and months. My priority is that these reforms improve officer safety and public safety, which is a balance we have worked and will continue to work collaboratively to achieve.”
“This is not a radical shift for us. Many of these changes we understand to be best practices. We’ve always held change and evolution as a pillar of our training and that is why we are the best department with the most opportunities,” Chief Brown said.
Mayor Mendenhall signed an Executive Order this afternoon directing Chief Brown to make the following seven reforms to the department’s policies by September 5, 2020:
Use of Force:
- SLCPD’s Use of Force policy will go beyond the current constitutional floor of Graham v. Connor, which has long required an officer’s use of force to be only “objectively reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment.
- While the policy currently requires that an officer find it “reasonable to believe” that a person will use a weapon to harm someone, an officer must now determine that deadly force is “necessary” and that the threat of death or serious bodily injury is “imminent.” Necessary and imminent are terms that are already used in state code and city policy on use of force, but those terms have not been defined. They will be carefully defined in the new policy.
- SLCPD Officers will now be required to use de-escalation techniques before using force. De-escalation tactics are no longer suggested or preferred — they are mandatory prior to using force to effect an arrest unless it would be unreasonable to do so. Officers will employ effective communication techniques in an attempt to achieve voluntary compliance. Officers will be expected to not contribute to a situation that could lead to use of force by taking unnecessary, overly aggressive action.
- The use of deadly force is prohibited when trying to prevent an individual from self-harming where the individual is not an immediate threat to others.
- While the Duty to Intercede policy has long required officers to intercede if they observed an improper use of force, officers will now be expected to do more. Any officer who reasonably believes an officer is about to use force or other action that is illegal, excessive, or otherwise inconsistent with policy must, absent extraordinary circumstances, do whatever they can to interrupt the flow of events and prevent the use of force. If a supervisor is on the scene, the supervisor must give a direct order to prevent the use of force.
- To create greater accountability and transparency, officers will include additional detail when reporting uses of force, including any de-escalation tactics they attempted to employ. Two levels of supervisor will review all uses of force, not just those that result in bodily injury.
- SLCPD’s body-worn camera policy must follow the minimums in state code, but will go beyond those requirements to explicitly allow discipline for officers who intentionally or negligently fail to activate their cameras. Because this change involves potential disciplinary action, the City’s Memorandum of Understanding with the police union requires us to allow the union 30 days to consider and comment on it before enactment.
Search and Seizure:
- SLCPD officers conducting searches of real property or a vehicle without a warrant will be required to inform the person being searched of their right to refuse, and to obtain the signature of the person consenting on the SLCPD Consent to Search Form, which will be updated to be easier to understand, and translated into languages most commonly spoken in the City.
Mayor Mendenhall noted that today’s changes are a part of a longer plan for police reform, which includes the work of the Salt Lake City Commission on Racial Equity in policing.
“I look forward to the outcomes of the Commission’s reviews, and trust that they will also look at the updates I’m directing today to determine whether they represent the needs of our city residents and if we can do even better with these reforms to improve public safety and police officer safety,” Mayor Mendenhall said.