Unfortunately, the issue of police officer use and misuse of power has become a very real and very pressing topic both nationally and locally. The Salt Lake Tribune noted that, over the past five years, more people have been killed by police officers than from gang members, drug dealers, and child abuse – making it the second most common form of death by another in the state.
At the start of the month, the Salt Lake City and Syracuse Police Departments, in two separate incidents, on the same day, delivered fatal gunshots to citizens. On Wednesday, another officer involved shooting took place when a West Valley City officer shot and killed a man in Draper. In all, there were 14 deaths in the state last year where a police officer was involved, and 2015 is not off to a good start.
Regardless of what side of the issue one falls on, a universal mantra is that officers need to receive greater training on how to handle situations in an attempt to avoid officer related deaths whenever possible.
To that end, Representative Marc Roberts (Republican – Santaquin) is proposing HB 85 – Peace Officer Training Amendments.
If successful, the legislation would allow, but not require, the legislature to pull up to $500,000 from the Uninsured Motorist Identification Restricted Account and direct it towards the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Division of Peace Officer Standards and Training – a special line item in the budget that is specifically funded by a $1 charge that is included on each motor vehicle registration fee collected by the tax commission.
Perhaps now more than ever, such an appropriation seems appropriate. Of course, the political reality is that Roberts bill becomes much more tolerable for the legislature if Roberts states that the legislature “may” appropriate money, as opposed to language that states that the legislature “shall” appropriate money – meaning that, even if Roberts is successful in passing his legislation, there is no certainty that the money will actually be distributed to the Department of Public Safety.
None the less, it is good to see lawmakers attempting to take a proactive approach to the very real and very immediate situation of police related fatalities. Hopefully, with greater training, those who serve and protect will have a greater set of tools at their disposal.
To contact Representative Roberts, click here or call 801-210-0155.
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