SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The number of Utah police confrontations that ended in a suspect’s death dropped in 2015, but the killings continue to raise concern about the use of lethal force.
A total of 10 men between the ages of 24 and 53 were killed in encounters with police in 2015. All 10 deaths were found legally justified by prosecutors, the Deseret News reported (http://bit.ly/1IL0eF8).
In 2014, police shot and killed 14 men.
Utah’s Peace Officer Standards and Training director Scott Stephenson said that it’s been a year since Utah stepped up de-escalation and scenario-based, use-of-force training.
“There are too many variables that go into any deadly force situation or use-of-force situation,” Stephenson said. “To be able to pinpoint why officer-involved shootings are down this year, I think is almost impossible.”
Utahns Against Police Brutality organizer Chris Manor said a single death is too many.
“If we congratulate the cops on killing (fewer) people, I think that’s selling ourselves short of what could be possible,” he said. “Really no cops (in Utah) have been in danger, so to speak, of facing any type of criminal charges, let alone accountability for their actions.”
Former Salt Lake police chief Chris Burbank is the director of law enforcement engagement for the Center for Policing Equity. He said there isn’t enough nationwide data to be able to tell say whether officers are de-escalating situations in Utah.
“What’s missing is the analysis,” Burbank said. “It’s a good way to go, but I want to make sure that next year there are even fewer.”
He said detailed, nationwide data is needed so these cases can be compared, including information about the situation, races of people involved, the officers’ attitudes going in, as well as what actions were taken after the encounter.
“Those are the types of things that in the long-term will prevent these situations from escalating,” Burbank said.