Over two years ago, the nation and Utah faced the aftermath of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. These deaths exposed the general public to what minority populations have long experienced when interacting with law enforcement officers. They demonstrated that Utah and the nation needed to do more to ensure all peoples have access to liberty and justice.
Police officers, specifically, have been granted an expansive amount of power by the nation’s various governments and as a result, a portion of them have used questionable amounts of force against the communities they are supposed to serve too long. Providing checks to these individuals’ broad powers must be pursued in order to prevent awful situations that bear similarity to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
On May 25, President Biden signed an executive order that attempts to meet some of these objectives. Specifically, this executive order promotes a lessening of police officer power through:
- requiring the increased use of body-cameras
- restricting the use of no-knock warrants
- banning the use of chokeholds and carotid restraints, unless deadly force is authorized
- implementing new standards that limit the use of force and requiring the use of de-escalation tactics for all federal agencies.
- tracking data on use of force and misconduct incidents
These changes come with, according to a national survey from the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who give police positive ratings declining. Pew’s poll also shows strong nationwide support for banning chokeholds, creating a federal database to track officers accused of misconduct, and increased training in nonviolent alternatives to deadly force.
There are many ideas on exactly how to proceed with police reform, and at this point, some level of continued reform is inevitable. The policies outlined above, and the strong public opinion behind them, suggest that Utah’s direction in balancing protecting people’s rights and the flexibility for officers to do their job is the right one. Utah can continue to plot a course forward while keeping our communities safe, ensuring good officers aren’t put at risk unnecessarily, and making sure bad actors are held accountable for their actions.