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Salt Lake activists educate about rights, push for Community Controlled Police Review Board

By Gregory Murray |
August 2, 2016
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Speaker at Utah rally addresses the recent attacks on the Fourth Amendment
Speaker at Utah rally addresses the recent attacks on the Fourth Amendment (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Salt Lake City, UT – Utah activists rallied at Washington Square, July 31, to address the recent attacks on the Fourth Amendment and demand a Community Controlled Police Review Board to curb police crimes. Organizers called the rally in response to the Supreme Court decision in Strieff v. Utah, which makes it legal for the state to prosecute individuals using illegally obtained evidence.

Though rain initially threatened the event, 50 people nevertheless came out to hear the ACLU’s Anna Brower talk about the importance of the Court’s decision. She explained that Edward Streiff was stopped by South Salt Lake police after leaving a home that was under investigation for possible ‘narcotics activity.’ This type of stop is unlawful because he was not observed committing any crime.

After making the stop, the officer checked Streiff’s record and found that he had a warrant for his arrest due to a minor traffic violation. The cop arrested Streiff, and conducted a search in which he found methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia.

Streiff later sued the state of Utah because he believed that the illegal stop should have made the evidence against him inadmissible. Ignoring logic, legal precedent and basic human rights, the Supreme Court disagreed with Streiff and ruled that the illegally-obtained evidence could be used against him.

Legal experts believe the case opens the door for police to conduct random stops without regard for the law. In her dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said “it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny.”

Brower thanked Utah Against Police Brutality and CopWatch – who organized the event along with the ACLU – for their grassroots organizing and said the ACLU’s work is greatly helped by Salt Lake’s strong community of activists.

Cheryl Stout, an organizer with CopWatch, encouraged people to post videos of police misconduct and brutality onto the group’s Facebook page. She told the crowd that watching or filming the cops can be intimidating and the best way to stay safe is to do it as a group.

Utah Against Police Brutality’s Carly Haldeman emphasized the need for a Community Controlled Police Review Board in Salt Lake City to hold police accountable for their killings, brutality and other misconduct. The city’s current Civilian Review Board is completely ineffective, partly because its members are appointed by the mayor and are not democratically elected, and because they have no power to subpoena evidence from the police, she said.

Haldeman pointed to the case of Abdi Mohamed, who was shot by the police in Salt Lake City. Despite months of protest by the community, District Attorney Sim Gill and police officials have refused to release the body camera footage of his shooting.

“The police are stalling and counting on us to become frustrated and complacent with the current system,” she said, pointing out that a democratically-elected police review board with real power – like the power to subpoena evidence and punish officers – is the only way to bring about justice.

District Attorney Gill has repeatedly found police justified in killing Utahans despite evidence that shootings were unnecessary, or were racially motivated. He has also refused to file or has prematurely dropped criminal charges against officers who were found to have killed unjustifiably, such as with former West Valley City police officer Shawn Cowley, who killed Danielle Willard in 2012.

Utah Against Police Brutality (UAPB) organizer Stephen Christian thanked the crowd for attending and commended organizers for putting the event together. He also encouraged people to come to the next UAPB meeting on Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 3 of the Salt Lake City Library. The discussion there will focus on creating a plan to fight for a Community Controlled Police Review Board.