Police

In Utah, You're More Likely to be Shot Dead by a Cop Than a Criminal

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The Salt Lake Tribune's Erin Alberty reports that citizens of the Beehive State are more likely to be 

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killed by police than gang members, drug dealers, or abusive parents. Only homicide at the hands of an intimate partner is more likely.

Culled from "media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records" from the past five years, the Tribune found "45 people had been killed by law enforcement officers in Utah since 2010, accounting for 15 percent of all homicides during that period."

As is common with police shootings across the country, all but one of the incidents was ruled justifiable by prosecutors, and even that one was dismissed by a judge before going to trial. 

Former police lieutenant Chris Gebhart is quoted in the article conceding that there are situations when violent, and sometimes deadly, force is justified, but "There's an opportunity to de-escalate more of these situations. Officers instead are escalating these situations themselves."

Lack of sufficient training in crisis deescalation might be partially to blame for the amount of killings by police:

Scott Stephenson, director of POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training, a division of the Utah Department of Safety), said cadets receive formal training in de-escalation, including a 12-hour class on conflict resolution, eight hours on mental illness response and a session on dealing with subjects with "excited delirium" from drug use.

"We teach officers to use lower levels of force, if at all possible," Stephenson said.

But that coursework gives way to continuing training that focuses almost exclusively on using force, Gebhardt said.

"When they receive the verbal Judo class, it's one time, done and over with," Gebhardt said. "Baton training, OC spray, firearms are done on a quarterly, annual, or two-year basis. They should integrate that de-escalation training into it. When a situation deteriorates, the officer reverts to their training. … Departments really need to own, from the top down, de-escalation. They need to stress and emphasize de-escalation with the officers."

If officers are repeatedly trained on the use of deadly force, with only a cursory introduction to conflict resolution, it's hardly surprising that the lessons in keeping the peace might be forgotten, or at the very least, de-prioritized. 

This article serves as a useful reminder that there is no national database of shootings by police, and save for a few journalists, academics and sports websites, no efforts to create one.

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  1. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who skimmed Scott’s post too quickly.

  2. Only homicide at the hands of an intimate partner is more likely.

    And at least that gets you out of marriage, so there’s that.

    1. And at least that gets you out of marriage, so there’s that.

      All of them in Utah, amiright?

  3. To be fair, they weren’t trained not to be murderous thug gang members.

    1. I blame lack of funding from the civilians

    2. Former police lieutenant Chris Gebhart is quoted in the article conceding that there are situations when violent, and sometimes deadly, force is justified, but “There’s an opportunity to de-escalate more of these situations.

      Perhaps not when they’re RUSHING up within arms length to someone wielding a knife.

      1. Perhaps not when they’re RUSHING up within arms length to someone wielding a knife.

        Ironically, the Tueller Drill is named after Sergeant Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake City PD.

    3. they weren’t trained not to be murderous thug gang members

      There is a serious question related to your quip. In each locality, the political class has control of setting policy for hiring, firing, remuneration, training, pensions, and the like for its police force. Local pols and power brokers, who usually have long-term investments in the community and power structure, have to interact all the time with police officials, judges, jail administrators and police union leaders. Who gets hired and retained in the police and the collective personality of the force is not an accident. Just like the personality of the workforce at Trader Joe’s differs from that of the TSA, what we see in the police force is revealing the basic preferences of the political class running it.

  4. Seems like its just a matter of time before a relative of one of these “justifiably” deceased takes matters into their own hands.

    After a few well publicized examples, maybe some cops will remember they are hired to HELP US, not to FUCK US UP.

    1. I’m sure it would have the opposite effect. They would become even more suspicious and quick to violence than they already are.

      1. Makes sense to me–especially when you consider that most cops only act that way because they’re scared shitless at the first hint of confrontation, and this is only going to make them shit their pants further.

    2. I’m honestly surprised this hasn’t happened yet.

      1. For all we know it has happened, but the media either squashed it or just never found out. After all, news like that could empower people who feel wronged by the police, and the next thing you know cops are getting sniped left and right.

    3. I think we should take a page from the Amish and just begin shunning them.

      1. The next time you get pulled over please try shunning them. And please have a dashcam on and uploading straight to the intertubez so we can watch the outcome.

  5. Today, you will trust an “officer” or “agent” or “special agent” at your peril. If you wish a non-violent situation to get violent real quick, just get them involved.

    A cop is best avoided and shunned, including their family members.

    1. Cops are like guns. Don’t point them at something unless you intend to destroy it and yourself in the process.

      That’s how the saying goes, right?

  6. Thing to remember is that cops don’t kill people because they are actually threatened in any real sense of the word. The vast majority of the time it is for failure to obey. They’re so used to people unquestioningly following orders that when someone doesn’t, they get scared. They get really scared. They are trained to believe anyone who doesn’t obey them, even a twelve year old boy, is going to kill them. So they open fire. And nothing else happens.

  7. My evil twin was considering the likelihood that a well phrased anonymous phone call might be useful in eliminating her neighbor’s vicious little dog. Prolly wouldn’t work. Only get rural sheriffs round these parts and they’re not quite as puppycidal as city cops,

    1. Would that really help the situation at all?

      I mean, the owner is just going to get another vicious little dog…

      1. No their other little dogs are just fine. It’s this one particular brute who absolutely WILL bite any human not his owner if given the chance. My evil twin is resigned to waiting it out. Eventually in a couple years or so, that little fuck will die of old age if nothing else.

        1. There is always ground meat covered in antifreeze.

    2. A sack, a couple bricks and a nearby river.

      Jeez, do I have to do everything for you people?

      1. A sack, a couple bricks and a nearby river.

        Why risk getting bit doing the wetwork yourself?

        If the dog chases vehicles, word on the street is that a decent Christmas tip to any of the local parcel/food delivery services along with a vague note of encouragement to do themselves a favor will do the trick.

  8. Only homicide at the hands of an intimate partner is more likely.

    No wonder with 8 wives.

  9. I need to create a modernized “stranger danger” poster showing a police officer shooting an unarmed teen.

  10. by a Cop Than a Criminal

    Now there’s a distinction without a difference

  11. Grammar nag: the amount of killings by police. C’mon, Fisher. You can do better.

  12. One of the last reality cop shows I watched was prime example of this. In every single case it was the cops that escalated the situation to make it worse than it needed to be. Every response except for maybe one (out of ten) were a complete overreaction to the situation to begin with.

  13. I’d like someone to explain to me why we need all these swat style raids on peoples homes. When I was a kid only major cities like LA had swat teams specifically for hold up hostage situations for bank robberies Nd things like that. It just isn’t necessary. I read Chris Kyle’s American Sniper not long before he was killed. His descriptions of house raids in Iraq sounded like like what is happening in every city in the US everyday. It’s criminal is what it is. I don’t get we allow this shit.

    1. SWAT style raids are fun (for the cops) and a good justification for all that spending on cops (by politicians). They also allow the cops to steal people’s stuff (money and drugs) with little chance of getting hurt in the process.

    2. It’s not necessary. But if a police department is going to spend millions on their fancy military-style units, they’re going to want to use them, too.

      Federal law makes it pretty easy for local police departments to purchase what is, essentially, urban warfare gear. That law needs to be changed; it’s way too open for abuse.

  14. Wait, so the bed that I hear all of the cops whining about lately is one they made themselves?

  15. cadets receive formal training in de-escalation, including a 12-hour class on conflict resolution, eight hours on mental illness response and a session on dealing with subjects with “excited delirium” from drug use.

    Setting aside the fact that this seems like a laughably short amount of training in these areas… the problem is that officers have incredibly wide discretion to do whatever they want to in the field without facing any repercussions. An officer can choose to have somebody clearly suffering from a psychotic break thrown in prison for months (with little to no treatment) or call an ambulance for a temporary institutionalization (with docs and meds). Or the officer can shoot the person because he had a “reasonable fear for his life”. It all depends on what that officer is feeling at the moment he comes into contact and it’s all pretty much unreviewable.

  16. So, 45 people in Utah since 2010 have been shot and killed by the police….
    while acting in a manner that justified their shooting.
    And the problem there is?

    1. Beg the question much? What makes you think the shootings were “justified?”

  17. Hint: Don’t climb over a fence and wave a red flag at a bull.
    Yeah, it’s a metaphor.

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