Reacting to a weekend fracas between police and drunken partiers, Salt Lake County has canceled - at least temporarily - upcoming events in the County Fairgrounds in Murray.
County Commissioner Mike Stewart said the county will hasten its plan to assume total control over the grounds. Currently, a fair advisory board controls the county-owned facility and rents it to groups.But county officials said the board provides no security, and recent disturbances have been mounting.
Police were called to the fairgrounds Sunday after receiving reports that children as young as 11 were becoming drunk at a party there. A family had rented the hall for a traditional Mexican celebration for a girl on her 15th birthday.
Murray police said some of the people in the hall, which was filled to overflowing, got out of control and assaulted officers. Eventually, 18 cars from Murray police and the County Sheriff's Department, along with a canine unit, responded.
Some partiers said police used excessive force. Three men were arrested.
Stewart said the group renting the facility hired its own security guards, who let people consume alcohol in violation of county ordinances.
The county hopes to assume total responsibility for the grounds within the next two weeks. After that, people again can rent facilities, and the county will provide security. But until then, the fairgrounds will not be the scene of any weddings, parties, reunions or other events. People who had rented facilities on the grounds will receive refunds. Stewart said the county may allow activities it considers safe.
Stewart said he is frustrated because the county could be liable for something that happened at a facility it doesn't manage.
"This is another example of someone else managing county property," Stewart said. "What we don't manage, we can't control."
He described Sunday's incident as the worst of several recent disturbances at the fairgrounds.
County commissioners have discussed moving the fair to a site in South Jordan, noting that the current site is too urban and too limited for an agricultural fair.
Stewart, who is not convinced the fair should be moved, said Sunday's incident is unrelated to the debate over the fair's future.
Murray investigation under way
Murray police officials are not setting a time limit on an internal affairs investigation into whether police brutalized patrons at a party where several officers were injured early Sunday.
A 30-year-old man filed a complaint with Murray police Thursday, saying he was brutalized by police while chaperoning a party for his 15-year-old sister in a rented building at the Salt Lake County Fairgrounds.
Assistant Police Chief Paul Forbes said internal affairs officers are interested in talking to anyone who was at the party when police arrived. The fact that more than 200 people were there could make the investigation lengthy, he said.