Utahns favor body cameras on police officers, poll shows
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns overwhelmingly favor police officers wearing body cameras, a new poll shows. But they're split on whether police are too quick to use deadly force.
UtahPolicy.com found 83 percent of residents strongly or somewhat agree that police should wear body cameras or other devices to record their interactions with the public. The poll found that 8 percent disagreed and 8 percent were neutral.
The poll also shows 41 percent of Utahns say police are too quick to use deadly force, while 44 percent say they are not.
Dan Jones & Associates conducted the survey of 406 likely Utah voters Aug. 26-28. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Salt Lake police have been using body cams for nearly two years. To date, 145 officers are equipped with the cameras with 114 more officers due to get them in the coming weeks.
"Anybody who interacts with the public on a daily basis, they will have a camera," said Salt Lake Deputy Police Chief Tim Doubt.
Doubt said he and Chief Chris Burbank believe body cams will soon become mandatory equipment for police officers in all agencies. Salt Lake City is among several departments that use the cameras.
"This is about documenting what our officers do," Burbank said recently, adding a 10-hour shift yields about 2 ½ hours of interaction with the public on video. "The majority of the time it shows that officers did a great job."
The chief said officers' video is available to the public through the state's public records law.
Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, said body cameras are promising for ensuring transparency and accountability among police officers in the use of force and lethal force when necessary.
Libertas, the ACLU of Utah and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are looking to propose a statewide policy for use of body cams to ensure consistency from agency to agency.
Burbank addressed the use of body cameras and deadly force in a news conference last month in which he announced that the Salt Lake officer who shot and killed Dillon Taylor in a 7-Eleven parking lot captured the incident on his body camera. The department has not released the video, saying it's evidence in an ongoing investigation.
The officer's body camera recorded the entire incident, including the point when the officer shoots Taylor, Burbank said. He would not comment on whether the 20-year-old had a gun. The man's family has said he was not armed.
Officers in that situation were responding to a call from a person who reported seeing a man with a gun.
"If we don't ever want our officers to use force, we should just tell that person, 'Thanks very much. We'll see you later.' That's not what we want in society. That's not the expectation that we have, so we put officers in very difficult situations," Burbank said.
Use of deadly force is a last resort, he said.
Boyack said Libertas doesn't have a position on whether police are too quick to use lethal force. But he said it's interested in making sure officers are authorized to use it only in certain circumstances and that they're held accountable when they deviate from that.
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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