How Much Force are Utah Police Using?

Last year, Libertas Institute proposed legislation to bring transparency to law enforcement, specifically to high-risk warrants and SWAT team deployments. The first annual report—a requirement of the legislation—was published today by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

The report includes information provided by law enforcement agencies around the state for the year 2014. Sadly, and in violation of the law, only 75% of agencies contacted provided information for the report.

Here are the key findings from the report:

  • There were 559 unique incidents in 2014, defined as a search warrant served using forcible entry (no knock or knock and announce) as well as all deployments of tactical teams.
  • Warrants were utilized in 96% of all reported incidents, with forcible entry being
    employed 61%
    of the time.
  • 83% of forcible entry warrants dealt with drug crimes.
  • Weapons were only present in 0.5% of the incidents reported.
  • Less than 1% of incidents resulted in an officer discharging his or her firearm.
  • Three civilians were injured and three were killed in 2014, with zero law enforcement fatalities/injuries.

This report is the only one of its type in the entire country. We are encouraged to see this data surfaced, disappointed that government employees tasked with enforcing laws chose not to follow this one, and eager to see better informed public policy result from this information.

As expected, most of the reported incident dealt with drug crimes:

Additionally, tactical team deployments were likewise used mostly for drug crimes:

There are several takeaways from this report, which includes breakdowns for the type of law enforcement group, the type of force used in serving the warrant, and the county in which each incident occurred.

Libertas Institute will be analyzing the report in the coming weeks to determine any potential policy recommendations that will better protect the rights of innocent Utahns and appropriately restrain the authority given to law enforcement officials in this state.