In the past five years, more Utahns have been killed by cops than by gang violence, drug dealers, or from child abuse.
Data from a five-year period is painting a disturbing picture of a deadly trend among Utah police officers.
Up until this year, killings by police officers ranked second only to homicide of intimate partners. However, this year, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan, deadly force by police surpassed even violence between spouses and dating partners.
As police killings rise, more people are becoming aware and police watchdog groups are saying that it's time we start treating deadly force by police as a potentially serious public safety problem. The Free Thought Project agrees.
"The numbers reflect that there could be an issue, and it’s going to take a deeper understanding of these shootings," said Chris Gebhardt to the Salt Lake Tribune, a former police lieutenant and sergeant who served in Washington, D.C., and in Utah, including six years on SWAT teams and several training duties. "It definitely can’t be written off as citizen groups being upset with law enforcement."
Only one single case of police deadly force in Utah has ever been deemed "unjustified" by prosecutors which was the 2012 shooting of Danielle Willard by West Valley City police.
The Tribune also spoke to Ian Adams, a West Jordan police officer and spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police who says, "Police are trained and expected to react to deadly threats. As many deadly threats emerge is the exact amount of times police will respond."
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"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?"
Apparently Adams is unaware of police tendencies to escalate an otherwise peaceful situation into violent one, at the drop of a hat.
As recent FBI data has shown, violence among citizens is at an all time low, while violence by police is at an all time high. To imply that police are justified in 100% of these killings is not only irresponsible but incredibly dangerous.
The death of another human being should be avoided at all costs and when it happens, regardless of whether or not the person wears a badge, there should be a full investigation; by a third party.
"Sometimes the line between is it legal and is it necessary becomes difficult to distinguish," criminal justice professor at Weber State University, Robert Wadman said. "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. But the question is, is it necessary? That’s something that needs to be firmly addressed, for example, in training."
Gang violence in America was once a national conversation and rightfully so. However, with the legalization of marijuana in several states, these cartels are diminishing and their once violent hold is slipping away. They no longer pose such a large threat.
Americans are less violent now than ever before, so why are we seeing an increase in police violence? If the recent events in Ferguson, MO and the heavy militarization among police forces nationwide, have taught this country anything, it's that we are long overdue for a serious conversation about police reform.