SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — A year after the riot in downtown Salt Lake City, in which the Salt Lake Police Association said officers were placed in danger because of decisions of administrators, the SLPA maintained Wednesday problems persist in the police department.
May 30, 2020, dozens of officers were injured after violence that included flipping over a police car and setting it on fire, smashing windows and damaging buildings. The mayhem followed the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, and the local deadly police shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.
Now, the association asserted SLCPD has lost 90 officers in the past year, including officers who quit or retired — and that the city has replaced less than a third of them.
“Because of the dangers our city is facing, we have had to become much more vocal,“ said SLPA president Joe McBride. “They are not taking this situation as seriously as they should be, and I’m talking about city administration across the board. It’s the lack of officers that we have, which directly result in citizens not having the police protection they deserve.”
2News asked McBride if police would respond to a call of a home break-in, and if so, when.
“It all depends,” he replied, adding if there are a rash of “priority one” calls, it could take more than a hour for officers to arrive.
In addition to depleted numbers of officers, he said police do not think the city has their back.
“That is the feeling of a majority of officers,“ he said, “that they can’t do their job without fear of consequence, or without fear of being a political scapegoat.”
A day after last year’s riot, in which police from all over northern Utah rushed downtown to stem the chaos, Mayor Erin Mendenhall urged anyone who saw officers act inappropriately to call her office.
That comment drew swift rebuke from the Fraternal Order of Police, and the mayor added she appreciated officers restoring order.
In the last several months, McBride said Mendenhall has made statements supportive of police, and that the city is listening to police concerns, but he said SLPA is looking for actions from the Mayor’s Office.
Mendenhall denied 2News’ request for an interview on Wednesday.
A police spokesman told 2News that Chief Mike Brown was not available, but SLCPD provided a statement:
“The union leadership and Chief Brown have met weekly for the past few months,” said the department. “We agree that we have the best officers out there and they have been through a lot in the past year. We look forward to continuing to work with the union leadership to address these issues.”
McBride said SLPA is looking for Brown to voice support for officers.
The union is in contract talks with the city now, and is urging city officials to increase officers’ pay. McBride said new officers start at $21/hour and “top out” at $35.
Meantime, the association is planning to release a report soon on the 2020 riot — what police did right, what they did wrong, and the decisions the union said were dangerous for officers.
After the police car was overturned and burned in the melee, police did not respond for roughly 90 minutes.