SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) New data released to ABC4 News provides insight into how many Salt Lake County officers were subpoenaed to appear in courtrooms over the last month.
According to the Salt Lake County District Attorney, 1,599 officers in the county were subpoenaed to Matheson Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City and 525 were subpoenaed to Third District Court in West Jordan.
A recent change announced by Utah Court officials will assign court cases at random between the two courthouses instead of by geographic region.
“The impact is going to be even far more disproportionate to the smaller police agencies because they don’t have the depth of bench to be able to send people all over,” explained Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill.
“If you never have to interface with the court system, you’re never going to get subpoenaed or be a witness, you may think it’s not a big deal. But for that police agency that is supposed to be safeguarding your community and be there out on the street because a crime is occurring, it is a big deal when that police officer is not in your neighborhood and not responding to those calls because they’re taking an extra hour or two hours because of the way that we’re distributing these cases. And the overtime or the ability to give you that same kind of coverage is going to translate to you as the taxpayer in helping pick up that bill,” the District Attorney said.
Utah Court officials made the decision because judges in West Jordan are overloaded with cases. Sim Gill says he understands demographics are shifting and caseloads are going up, but adds, the West Jordan Courthouse was built with expansion in mind.
“A year ago it was the decision of the court to send Cottonwood Heights and Murray cases to West Jordan. So if the concern was a demographic shift, then it’s sort of like a self-inflicted wound that we have because of the disproportionately of the cases there.”
“If we have too many cases coming to downtown you can send some of those cases to West Jordan, and if you have too many cases in West Jordan, send them downtown,” Gill explained as a solution, but added, assigning all cases at random is going to be detrimental.
Government officials ranging from prosecutors, police chiefs, public defender, mayors and city council members, signed a letter asking court officials to reconsider the decision because of the burden it will have on witnesses, victims and defendants, as well as law enforcement.
“I hope the court will take very seriously, the concerns of all of us who have come together because we represent 1.2 million people in this community and we’re asking the court to make an informed decision with them in mind,” said Gill.
ABC4 News reached out to Judge Mark Kouris, the judge who made the decision, for comment. Through a spokesperson, he told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson that he was looking over the data from the Salt Lake County District Attorney.