SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Police Chief Mike Brown announced there has been an internal affairs audit into the use of force with the K9 team going back to 2018, “so far.” He said today the cases have been sent to the District Attorney’s office, the department’s internal affairs unit, and the civilian review board. The Chief said they will continue the audit so that all cases for the last four years are reviewed.
Chief Brown gave the facts he knows now, “In 2020 there have been 11 SLCPD K9 bites, nine of which we are referring to investigation. In 2019 there were ten SLCPD K9 bites 5 of which we are referring to investigation and in 2018 there were six SLCPD K9 bites, four of which we are referring to investigation.”
The Chief continued, “We have reviewed 27 K9 bites and we are referring 18 for investigation.”
Salt Lake City’s K9 program is suspended indefinitely and the officers involved are on administrative leave until the investigation is complete.
After announcing the suspension Brown said, “Because these incidents are important public concern, we will release the body worn camera footage, within 10 business days from today.”
The police chief added that the SLCPD is built on 5 core values. Character, compassion, courage, commitment to the community, and communication.
Council Chair Chris Warton stepped up to the podium next, he said they have not had time to view all the footage yet. He said they “Highly value that the mayor is fulfilling her duty, to the public in Salt Lake City, to carefully examine how taxpayers policing resources are being deployed and to make changes to make changes to the city’s approach as needed.”
He continued “We want to encourage police officers, as individuals, groups, as a whole department, or as an entire profession, to be the people who demonstrate that there are better ways to keep the community safe.”
The power to change the face of policing is in the heart and mind of every single police officer.”
A very serious Mayor Mendenhall said “I am standing here today with a heavy heart and a determined mind.”
“Salt Lake City Government will not sit and wait to see what we can improve. I am not afraid, we are not afraid, even when the reality of our actions may bring heartbreak and disappointment to the good people of this department, Salt Lake City Corporation, and to the public that we serve.”
The mayor continued, “We will not tolerate an abuse of power that harms the people we serve, and harms the reputations of our good officers who are dedicated to serving in a fair, accountable and transparent way.”
“Our city’s referral of investigation of 18 K9 cases from the past two years represents our concern that what has gone on in the recent history of the Salt Lake City Police Department K9 apprehension program is a patter of abuse of power.”
Mayor Mendenhall emphasized: “We’re going to do what’s right, we’re going to do what’s just, and we are going to be open and transparent as we go about this work.”
“I truly believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant, and we are here today to shine a lot on this stain in our department.”
She commended Chief Brown, “Chief Brown’s action to proactively conduct this audit…let me say, not only has Chief Brown worked to put reforms in place, but better protect our public and our officers, he’s the only Chief in the state that I am aware of who’s also willing to look back when no one is asking him to do so, and say ‘let’s see what we may need to be accountable for that no one’s asked us to yet.’ That’s leadership, that’s the leadership we need to get through this.”
“That initiative is also reflective of our intent to not only correct this abuse of power, but to make sure though that it never happens again.”
The mayor added: “The K9 apprehension program is suspended indefinitely…as much as a swift and permanent termination of the program may seem necessary, I am not willing to make that decision without the information that we need to know if such an action may actually result in unintended consequences, that our contrary to our work, of improving the outcomes of policing for the public and our officers. We are doing that research now.”
The mayor said they were looking at communities across the country who made such decisions and also at K9 programs that are appropriately administered, and stated “we’ll determine at a later date the viability of a reformed K9 apprehension program for Salt Lake City.”
She said the victims in these cases should contact the District Attorney’s office.
In closing the mayor said, ” I know that our police department, has many officers who are committed to serving and protecting everyone in this city humanely and equitably under the law, at the same time, if we are to produce a department that is always transparent, accountable and fair, we must be willing and we are willing to seek where we have done harm, to fix it, and to ensure that it never happens again.”
“None of us should be afraid to build to do a better job.”
“The culture of abuse that we seem to see in these K9 incidents, ends now.”
“I am confident, that no use of force will ever go unreported to the appropriate chain of command again. The culture of an organization is shaped by the worst behavior a leader is willing to tolerate. We’re here to tell you this culture ends here and now, we are better than this, our residents deserve better than this, and I know that the many officers of the Salt Lake Police Department who are committed to truly serving and protecting will agree with this…”
“We will work tirelessly to rebuild your trust Salt Lake City, and we will never tolerate such abuse of power again.”