WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Top Stories - Salt Lake City Police Chief Addresses Militarization in Wake of Shooting Death of Unarmed Teen
Tuesday, August 26 2014, 07:51 PM EDT
Salt Lake City Police Chief Addresses Militarization in Wake of Shooting Death of Unarmed Teen
via NewsChannel9's sister station KUTV in Salt Lake City:

Salt Lake City's police chief addressed on Tuesday the militarization of police amidst protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and allegations of excessive force by his own police department.

In his open conversation with reporters, Chief Chris Burbank referred to public outcry after a Salt Lake City police officer fatally shot Dillon Taylor, 20, in South Salt Lake last week. His brother and cousin, who had just exited a 7-Eleven convenience store with Taylor, claim he was unarmed and did not threaten police.

Officers had been responding to a call of a man waving a gun in the area, and Taylor allegedly matched his description.

"The officer involved in this circumstance had a camera on his body, and the entire incident has been captured," Burbank said.

The chief also said that the officer who fired "is not a white officer," in response to questions about whether or not the incident involving Taylor, who is Hispanic, was race-related.

Burbank did not say if Taylor had been armed, waiting instead until five separate investigations into the shooting have been completed.

"Officers should be held to extremely high standards, but that cannot be an impossible standard," Burbank said.

Burbank also declined to say how Salt Lake City would have responded to protests like those in Ferguson, where demonstrators, a minority of whom have looted and burned local businesses, have been met in the streets by police with military equipment. Protestors are calling out police after a white officer shot and killed black teenager, Michael Brown.

"We should not respond to situations with more violence or lawlessness," Burbank said.

While President Barack Obama urged protestors to demonstrate peacefully, he also said the situation highlights the need to review federal programs that equip local agencies with surplus military gear.

"There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those lines blurred," Obama said. "That would be contrary to our traditions."

Burbank said his department has received "AR-15-style rifles," riot helmets and gas masks in past years, but barely any other surplus equipment.

He said knowing when to use that gear and when not to is critical. Burbank cited the Occupy Salt Lake City protests in 2011, when he and his officers responded in regular uniforms. Some officers, he said, asked why they were not wearing helmets. Burbank decided to take the risk.

"In some circumstances, maybe that's the only option, but is there a better way to do business?" Burbank said. "If we show up wearing riot gear - helmets and shields and everything else, it says, 'Throw rocks and bottles at us.'"

Body cameras are on 150 Salt Lake City officers currently, and, by the end of September, 259 officers who interact with the public out in the field will be trained with the technology.Salt Lake City Police Chief Addresses Militarization in Wake of Shooting Death of Unarmed Teen

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