SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – ABC4 uncovered an email showing the Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson canceling the state’s Police Reform Commission meetings citing busy schedules through March.
“I didn’t understand what that meant. That kind of dropped me off a cliff,” says Utah Valley University Associate Professor Dianne McAdams-Jones.
McAdams-Jones sits on the states Police Reform Commission and was one of the people who received an email from Commissioner Anderson stating:
“We do not plan to hold meetings during the legislative session given the busy schedules of our legislators and many others during this period; however, we look forward to collaborating informally through the session and plan to resume more formal conversations or meetings after the session.”
“I never liked backchanneling. I think if we are going to be in a committee, a commission, in a group, we are working together, we need all of the information to be on board,” says McAdams-Jones. “When you get people who backchannel and make decisions on the back channels, that’s always been a problem for me.”
Commissioner Anderson wasn’t available for an interview with ABC4, but LT. Nick Street with DPS tells us, “With all eyes on the session, and all eyes on criminal justice reform, and juvenile justice reform needing to be on the session, you know the commissioner issued this letter.”
Lt. Street goes on to say, “There were discussions and in hindsight, maybe that should have been reflected in the letter.”
Lex Scott with Black Lives Matter Utah also sits on the board.
“When I got the email it was panic,” she says. “We have a new governor now. So, Governor Herbert is the one who created the Police Reform Commission, and now we have Spencer Cox, he is a brand new Governor. I think we are all sitting back here trying to give him a chance, trying to see if he will do the right thing for police reform. He took a woman of color Kim [Cordova], who was in charge of this commission, and replaced her with a white police officer.”
That police officer is former Utah Chief of The Police Association and Bountiful Police Chief Tom Ross.
“It is definitely a tone-deaf move. We would like marginalized communities to be represented at the highest levels of government, so it feels like two steps back, but I’m still going to give Spencer Cox a chance,” says Scott.
Scott thinks it’s a good idea to pause the meetings which would allow legislators to potentially pass bills on police body camera footage, data collection, excessive force, implicit bias, and de-escalation training.
“Even though it is a republican supermajority, and they could go in there and vote down every single police reform bill that we have, but if they do that they are just going to continue to see unrest across the state,” she says. “If they truly want peace, and they truly want justice, we hope that they will pass some police reform.”
“The commissioner is not going to let this important, these important discussions cease from happening going forward. It’s still very much apart of what we learned from 2020, and even before that,” Lt. Street adds.
As of now, the Police Reform Commission established under Governor Herbert won’t meet formally until March 5th at the earliest.
McAdams-Jones says, “I have hope that we would keep some sort of relationship because it doesn’t stop with the legislation that we are having now, the legislative session that we are having now, and the legislators that we have now, it doesn’t stop there.”
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