Utah GOP lawmaker comes out in support of police reform

Interim St. George Police Chief Kyle Whitehead takes a knee with the Black Lives Matter protesters, sparking cheers from the crowd downtown St. George, Utah, June 4, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Republican lawmaker in Utah said Friday he’ll support police reform legislation championed by the NAACP aimed at ending brutality and racial profiling in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

In this March 9, 2017, file photo, Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher speaks on the phone on the Senate floor at the Utah state Capitol, in Salt Lake City, Utah. | Photo by Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, St. George News

Utah was among the first states to publicly respond to a call from the group’s national headquarters for branches to pursue reform legislation, said Jeanetta Williams, president of NAACP’s tri-state conference area of Idaho-Utah-Nevada. Priorities include the demilitarization of law enforcement, tracking and reporting data, and education and training of all officers.

GOP state Sen. Daniel Thatcher has agreed to pursue three of the items brought forth by the NAACP: limiting use of force, increasing transparency in discipline records and strengthening citizen review boards. Williams said she hopes the state’s racial and ethnic minority legislators will agree to propose others.

“The best way for us to support the NAACP right now is to listen to them, hear them and follow their lead,” Thatcher said.

He successfully sponsored a hate-crimes law in Utah last year, pushing though a bill that had stalled in the GOP-dominated Legislature for years.

“Utah isn’t a place where racism is tolerated, and today the message is clear,” Clearfield City Council member Karece Thompson said Friday. “My voice is being heard and to the communities of color we also hear you.”

Jeanetta Williams, president of NAACP Salt Lake Branch and the NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho-Nevada-Utah, speaks during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 5, 2020. | Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via Associated Press, St. George News

Williams said the NAACP plans to meet with community partners and law enforcement representatives to discuss the proposed legislation early next week.

David Spatafore, a lobbyist for the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, said the 110 chiefs in the state look forward to joining the NAACP and state legislators to work on creating reforms.

Williams and Thatcher said they’re confident the legislation can be passed in no more than year.

Protests against police brutality have continued in Salt Lake City as well as Cedar City and St. George. The demonstrations protesting Floyd’s death at the hands of police have been largely peaceful.


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