This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Motivated by recent officer-involved shootings, about 35 people demanded more accountability from the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday evening.
The occasion was a public hearing for a proposal that would fund independent legal counsel for the city's Police Civilian Review Board.
Some held signs saying things such as "Local Control Now" and "Justice 4 Abdi," a nickname for 17-year-old Abdullahi Omar Mohamed, who was shot by police on Feb. 27. He remains hospitalized.
Gregory Lucero, a member of the advocacy group Utah Against Police Brutality, told the council the shooting "was an attempted murder of a child." He maintained that Salt Lake City has more police violence than other places of similar populations.
Jason Cronin told the council "the people of Salt Lake City are furious. ... We feel something is amok because the civilian review board has become useless."
Others demanded footage from the police body camera of the shooting be released immediately. Some speakers, like Oscar Ross Jr., said that race is a factor in the way police behave. He called for transparency and accountability.
And some speakers demanded an elected community police-review board, because, said Jacob Jensen, "[As it stands now,] the police are policing the police."
In terms of independent consultation, the 14-member volunteer board required legal counsel for interpretation of the law only once in the past eight years, according to administrator Rick Rasmussen
That information was not widely known by the public or the council, which is leaning toward funding outside counsel rather than relying on the city attorney's office, which could appear to have a conflict of interest.
Rasmussen told the council at a work session preceding the public hearing that the review board was bound by federal and state laws that say that an officer may use deadly force if he or she believes his or her safety is threatened.
"Is it reasonable based on what the officer knew at the time?" Rasmussen said. "Until the law changes, we have to use that criteria [in officer-involved shootings]."
The shooting of Mohamed, a 17-year-old Somali refugee, has yet to come before the review board.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has not determined whether the shooting was justified.
Mohamed was not threatening an officer, but, police say, was in the process of assaulting a third party with a metal object. A witness described the object as a broken broom handle.
Gill said he would not release the footage until his investigation is complete.
The review board did find as justified the August 2014 shooting death of Dillon Taylor, 20, who was not armed. Officer Bron Cruz told the board that he believed Taylor was about to shoot him. The review board also found as justified the January 2015 shooting death of James Dudley Barker, 42, who hit an officer with a snow shovel after a verbal altercation. In addition, the review board found as justified the June 2014 shooting death a 2-year-old dog named Geist, who was shot in its owner's backyard by police searching for a lost child.
The D.A. found all three shootings to be justifiable under the law because the officers felt threatened in each case.
The board reviews about 230 complaints per year, Rasmussen said. A minority of them are allegations of excessive force. Rasmussen said over the past 10 years, Salt Lake City police have averaged 2.3 shootings per year.
Nonetheless, several speakers said the perception in the community is that no one is holding police accountable, particularly the review board.
Greg Ericksen told the council that the system is broken. "We say no more. We are here to demand the council do its part," he said. "If our elected officials do not give us justice, we will not give them peace."