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Group meets with District Attorney to discuss independent investigations in police shootings

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's two weeks into 2015, and Utah has had four officer involved shootings.

The group Utah Against Police Brutality wants a change in how those cases are reviewed. The group's organizer expressed concerns in a meeting with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill Thursday afternoon.

Chris Manor is the organizer of Utah Against Police Brutality. He and Gill talked for more than an hour. Manor told Gill he doesn't like how police agencies are investigating their own officer-involved shootings and suggested some changes.

"When the police take a life should they investigate themselves?" asked Manor, but he already had an answer. "With each individual shooting, we want to see an investigation happen that's from an independent external review."

Manor explained that an external civilian review board will give citizens a say in how they are being policed, and hold law enforcement accountable as they protect and serve.

"It gives it an impartial feel to it, that the police aren't simply investigating themselves every time they take a life," Manor told FOX 13 News.

It's a concept the District Attorney said he supports.

"I think that you're going to see a lot of movement in that direction, and it's about the idea of creating transparency and the perception of transparency," Gill said.

Though Gill said he understands Utah Against Police Brutality's concerns, he has questions himself.

"I certainly would not be comfortable turning over the responsibility of charging decisions to an external review board because what are the checks and balances, what is their statutory responsibility, who's the qualified person, do they have the authority to dictate that charges ought to be filed?"

Gill said, ultimately, there needs to be an investigative process in place that not only works, but is trusted.

Manor said he wants Utah to follow in Wisconsin's footsteps, where police shootings are investigated by an independent agency.

11 comments

  • ANOTHERBOB

    Is Sim Gill incapable of applying the laws regarding the use of deadly force? Perhaps we should hire some plumbers to help the NTSB conduct airline accidents.

  • Rich

    I’ve heard that Utah is now advertising for smarter criminals. You know the ones… They don’t brandish guns, knives or snow shovels. They also don’t try to out run the police in this high tech world. Drugs sales and the use of drugs are a thing of the past. And oh by the way… When asked for their ID and to raise their hands (empty of course) they comply with the law and the officer. Thus all unfounded cries of police brutality will go **** themselves.

    • Sim Gill needs to use common sense

      “Is Sim Gill incapable of applying the laws regarding the use of deadly force? Perhaps we should hire some plumbers to help the NTSB conduct airline accidents.”

      Perhaps you should not be able to vote because you are not a plumber, teacher, doctor, lawyer, etc. We have juries for a reason and we have private individuals investigate the government so that we can have faith in our government. You make ignorant arguments and you expect people to just deal with it. No way buddy. First, Sim Gill is not capable of investigating his co-workers, people who may have been one of his detectives or who may someday wish to work for his departments criminal investigation unit (certified peace officers). He is not able to impartially apply the law to the people he must work with. It would be like asking him to investigate his own paralegals or a Court Clerk or judge and to do so impartially. Do you think that Sim Gill is going to investigate a sitting judge for a crime if he knows that failing to prevail in court could mean that his office would have a lot of trouble prosecuting cases before that judge at a later date? Do you think that a prosecutor is going to create an adversarial relationship with a specific police officer or a department and then make his own job harder.

      Let me quote the Director of POST which certifies peace officers:

      “I’m so blessed that I haven’t had to fire at someone, but I’ve had a lot of friends who have been involved in shootings and the aftermath is awful,” Stephenson said.”

      Let me highlight the important word. FRIENDS. Got it? FRIENDS. Other police officers are his FRIENDS. Sim Gill is not an impartial person when it comes to police officer. He knows them but does not know the person they shot in most cases. He doesn’t spend days with the victims family. He doesn’t see them every day at the courthouse. He doesn’t walk up to the family of the victim a few days before Christmas at their last court session together and say “Have a Merry Christmas and I will see you after the holiday” because prior to the shooting that he is investigating he has never met the family of the victim. He can and does do that for police officers.

      Try to understand that. Get that through that thick skull of yours. Sim Gill has knowledge about one of the parties to the case that he does not have about the other. He is far more likely to be partial to his friends and colleagues than he is to some random stranger that they shot and killed.

  • JEWLZZZ

    Sim Gill should consider nominating Trish Ramirez to this review board. We could depend on her to give an unbiased opinion.

  • Sim Gill needs to use common sense

    “I certainly would not be comfortable turning over the responsibility of charging decisions to an external review board because what are the checks and balances, what is their statutory responsibility, who’s the qualified person, do they have the authority to dictate that charges ought to be filed?”

    How about you do your job and call a grand jury when there is an officer involved shooting fatality so that people can have trust that people like Stephenson who is Director of POST which is also responsible for the certification and training of officer aren’t the ones investigating when he says things like:

    “I’m so blessed that I haven’t had to fire at someone, but I’ve had a lot of friends who have been involved in shootings and the aftermath is awful,”

    If the Director of POST is calling other officers “friends” its because they are friends and there is no difference between the County Prosecutors office and the Police Departments they work with. It’s a conflict of interest. We don’t know which officers are your friends, who you like or know personally or professionally or how that clouds your perspective or view. Do you only charge officers you don’t like and not charge officers you do? Do you feel affinity with male officers over female officers? Do you have a bias towards officers that look like you? We don’t know but what we do know is that the person who has a working relationship with someone should not be responsible for investigating a criminal act on the part of a co-worker.

    Here is another way of looking at it. What if the police officer who shot and killed someone is a former Detective for the Salt Lake County Prosecutors Office who is now working for the Salt Lake City Police Department? Will the officers you don’t charge go on to be one of your own detectives?

    Please pull your head out of your behind

  • Nathan2B

    I for one think this would be a good way to go. I have been advocating this stance for a while now. What is wrong with having a Citizens Review Board? I think having a Review board that works hand in hand with the DA’s Office and the Police Agencies is a Good thing

  • fedupwithpolice

    An independent civilian review board consisting of certified and reputable legal scholars would work. In addition, I believe that all LEO’s should be required to carry professional liability insurance, similar to malpractice insurance for doctors, that pays out when an officer is accused of misconduct. After too many claims against an officer,they will become uninsurable, and thus unemployable, quickly rooting out the problem officers and retaining the good ones. Some other thing should be the requirement that LEO’s live in the jurisdiction that they police. Policing is supposed to be a community activity, and frankly, how can you trust someone to enforce the law in your community when they don’t even live there. There was a time in this country when policing was still a community activity, where citizens knew, trusted, and respected the police cause they lived and interacted with their neighbors. Cops today just hide in their cruisers, stalking innocent people and stealing our money over “infractions” with the threat of force. There is a word we used to use to describe that kind of thing. Highwayman.

    • BOB

      Perhaps you’d like to step forward, serve on the review board, and protect the interests of the pukes the police have to deal with.

  • Linda Spencer

    Except when that “review board” was tested in Wisconsin, it came up short. Why? Because they had stacked it with ex-cops. There needs to be STRICT guidelines for setting these boards up in order for them to be impartial and effective.

    • BOB

      Would you expect the NTSB investigating an airliner accident to place any value on the opinion of a plumber, school teacher, or perhaps a police officer? Don’t be rediculous.

Comments are closed.