Salt Lake City Police Seek Better Relationship With People They Serve

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah News) – Officer involved shootings, locally and across the country, had people talking Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

Concerned citizens had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments at a City sponsored event called “Transforming Together: Strengthening Police-Community Relationships in SLC”.

“These are very real issues and these are very real questions that we’re asking,”  one woman said. “We want answers. That’s why we’re here.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski had a question of her own.

“How does this community come together in a way that we aren’t creating enemies of each other?” Mayor Biskupski said. “Because that is the last thing we want to do.”

SLC Police Chief Mike Brown said he welcomed the opportunity to hear from the people his department serves.

“Everywhere across the county people are screaming for change,” Chief Brown told ABC4 Utah News. “Ferguson kind of started it, Baltimore, Chicago, New York, there’s this outcry for change but what does that change really look like? If you’re willing to sit down with us and we can talk back and forth we can find out what that solution might be.”

Dr. Paul White, an Associate Professor in the Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Utah who researches stereotypes and prejudices, admitted he is sometimes fearful of the police.

“There are times that I look over my shoulder,” Dr. White said. “There are times I am concerned not so much of a police officer coming and doing something to me but maybe someone seeing me out walking in the evening and thinking that I could be a potential threat.”

The meeting was divided into a series of smaller breakout sessions to facilitate more personal communication because as Chief Brown says ‘It’s hard to hate someone face to face’.

“We look at people from afar or on the TV and we don’t like those people. We find it very easy to hate and have prejudices and biases,” Chief Brown said. “But when we come together tonight it’s hard to hate up close because we become people. We become citizens and we can talk and relate to each other.”

The four breakout sessions Thursday focused on use of force, de-escalation training, officer hiring and training and the Civilian Review Board.

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