Report: Police Killings Are Utah’s Top Form Of Homicide

November 24, 2014 11:31 a.m.

There have been more deaths caused by police shootings than by gang members, drug dealers or from child abuse in the past five years in Utah, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

This year alone, the Tribune reported, police shootings have claimed more lives than violence between spouses or partners, for a total of 13 deaths. A toll, which includes 22-year-old Darrien Hunt who was fatally shot by police in September.

“The numbers reflect that there could be an issue, and it’s going to take a deeper understanding of these shootings,” Chris Gebhardt told the Tribune.

Gebhardt, a former police lieutenant and sergeant who served in Utah, continued by noting that the situation “definitely can’t be written off as citizen groups being upset with law enforcement.”

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Since 2010, 45 people were killed by police officers in Utah, a number which accounted for 15 percent of all homicides, the Tribune reported. In a review that the paper conducted of approximately 300 homicides, fatal police shootings were the second most common contributor, outpaced only by intimate partner violence.

Only one of the fatal police shootings was deemed unjustified by county prosecutors; however, the criminal charge against the offending officer was thrown out last month by a judge, the Tribune reported.

Ian Adams, a Utah police officer and spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, wrote to the Tribune with his perspective on the use of deadly force.

“Police are trained and expected to react to deadly threats. As many deadly threats emerge is the exact amount of times police will respond,” Adams wrote.
“The onus is on the person being arrested to stop trying to assault and kill police officers and the innocent public. … Why do some in society continue to insist the problem lies with police officers?”

Robert Wadman, a criminal justice professor at Weber State University and former chief of the Omaha, Neb. police department, noted that Utah law justifies the use of deadly force if an officer reasonably believes it’s necessary at the moment of shooting.

However, he also pointed out that “sometimes the line between is it legal and is it necessary becomes difficult to distinguish.”

“In the judgment of the officer, ‘Is my life in jeopardy? Yes.’ At that point in time, they’re legally grounded in using deadly force,” Wadman said. “But the question is, is it necessary? That’s something that needs to be firmly addressed, for example, in training.”

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