SLCPD K9 Apprehension Program audit results in 18 ‘concerning’ cases turned over to DA for investigation

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Salt Lake City Police Department announced the results of their K9 Apprehension Program on Friday, resulting in the District Attorney needing to investigate 27 cases.

In total, the department so far has reviewed cases through 2018 and found out of 27 K9 bites, 18 were concerning and are referred to the District Attorney’s Office for investigation.

“As Chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department, I am accountable to this community, and I have major concerns when force may have been used inappropriately. Because actions speak louder than words, it is my responsibility to make sure these incidents are brought to my attention and do the right thing when they are,” Chief Brown said.

“Proactively conducting this audit and turning over these cases to the DA’s office is evidence of our intent, not only to correct that abuse of power but also to ensure it does not happen again,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “The culture of an organization is shaped by the worst behavior a leader is willing to tolerate.  I am here to tell you that this culture ends here and now.  We are better than this, our residents deserve better, and I know that the many officers of SLCPD who are committed to truly serving and protecting, will agree.”

In addition, all of the officers involved in the cases that have been referred to the District Attorney, and been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of their investigations. 

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill released the following statement:

“Following a records request from our office sent in mid-August, Salt Lake City today
announced it has identified 27 K9 incidents between January 2018 and now, 18 of which are
being referred to the DA Office. Today’s disclosure by the City and SLCPD is a vital step
toward restoring public faith in law enforcement.

Our office sent the records request to SLCPD after learning of one serious K9-caused injury
only after it was reported publicly by the Salt Lake Tribune on August 11, 2020. At our request
the same day, SLCPD agreed to send that case to us for screening. A criminal case was later
filed.

We will review all materials provided to our office in connection with our records request and
we will act as appropriate and necessary to fulfill and perform our statutory duties consistent
with the law. This means carefully reviewing and investigating allegations of criminal conduct
consistent with our role as public prosecutors. The DA Office will file charges on any case that
rise to the level of criminal activity.

I want to thank Mayor Mendenhall and Chief Brown for their efforts to be transparent and to
take affirmative steps in the service of justice.”

The audit of the program will continue as the Department reviews footage from the previous four years that are under the statute of limitations.

Salt Lake City Council also released a statement following Friday’s press conference:

“We highly value the fact the Mayor is fulfilling her duty to the public in Salt Lake City to carefully examine how the taxpayer policing resources are deployed and to make changes to the City’s approach. The City Council expresses support for the Mayor’s Administration’s emphasis on training, accountability, equity, and transparency in policing in Salt Lake City.
 
As a City we have seen our share of concerns about police procedures and practices that do not conform or comply with our shared values. The power to change the face of policing is within the heart and mind of each and every police officer. We know and applaud that many police officers live to serve the community and have a very tough job.
 
We encourage Police Officers, as individuals, as groups, as a full department or as an entire profession to be the people who demonstrate that there are better ways to keep the community safe.
 
We invite the police profession to be a very active part of building a policing system that values human life, that respects differences and that does not tolerate discrimination, or inappropriate use of force, and that is fair and just for every individual. 
 
We thank all of the officers who work long hours and still make it their mission to model calm behavior, value de-escalation, and be deliberate in their actions.  We appreciate all of the officers who steadfastly insist that there is no circumstance where it is appropriate for the Police to administer punishment in the field, that the justice system is responsible to determine the consequences.”

SLCPD will be releasing body-worn camera footage of them within 10 business days because the incidents are of public concern.

The K9 Apprehension Program remains suspended indefinitely.

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