This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
"Data! Data! Data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay." The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
Sherlock Holmes, as usual, was impatient for some actual facts on which to base his deductions. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous creation was all about logic and reasoning. Which required as many straightforward facts as could be gathered.
Holmes would have been driven to distraction by Utah.
Two of the state's more important law enforcement agencies the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Transit Authority's police force are willfully flying blind in some very important areas, trying to operate without the basic facts that should be, well, elementary to basic law enforcement.
Earlier this month, the state records committee ordered the UTA to fulfill a request from The Salt Lake Tribune for access to its crime data. The newspaper has been asking various law enforcement agencies in Utah for the kind of data that would allow it to map where crimes occur.
The UTA did not want to provide the information, at least not unless The Tribune coughed up anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 for the extra work that would be necessary to extract the requested data from its collection of incident reports. The fact that several other local agencies provided the requested information at no, or nominal, cost showed not that UTA was hiding anything, but that its ability to gather information that it should be using itself on a daily basis was all but nonexistent. And that, apparently, is due to a seriously flawed database run by an outfit called FATPOT.
But FATPOT also handles similar data for some of the other agencies that quickly and fully responded to The Tribune's request. So UTA should not be blaming its contractors.
And last Sunday, another Tribune investigation outlined how the UHP is basically clueless when it comes to the policies guiding, and the actual investigation of, cases of alleged misconduct by its own officers. The result is, apparently, widely disparate consequences for officers accused of identical violations, as well as a total inability of the agency to investigate, or even acknowledge, complaints from the public.
Surrounding states surveyed by The Tribune displayed no such shortcomings. And so they demonstrate how an established and public process is in the interest, not only of the public, but of any law enforcement agency that expects to earn and keep the public's support.
Many words can be used to describe any law enforcement agency. "Clueless" should never be among them.