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Utah cops have new limits on use of deadly force on those posing danger only to themselves



A new state law went into effect Wednesday which limits how police officers in Utah use deadly force against suicidal people, and those who only pose a danger to themselves.

Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost (D-Salt Lake City) sponsored House Bill 237 earlier this year, and the goal is to help both police and those suffering from mental illnesses, those in crisis, and those posing a danger only to themselves.

Dailey-Provost said:

I sponsored this bill because I wanted to do something positive not just for my community but for law enforcement officers, too. In my conversations with officers, it became clear to me that interactions with suicidal people, especially those considering ‘suicide by cop,’ are some of the most dangerous, potentially devastating situations for everyone involved.”

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill also supports the bill.

He said:

Allowing, even expecting, police officers to use deadly force when dealing with someone who is a danger only to themselves is a recipe for heartbreak, not just for the family of the individual but also for any officer forced to make that terrible decision. Permitting officers the ability to step back strategically and thoughtfully, to take a breath, and to re-engage in a different way with someone in crisis will, we hope, lead to fewer officer-involved shootings and better results for community members and their families experiencing mental illness.”

H.B. 237 also has the support of police leaders in the state.

For years, West Jordan Police Chief Ken Wallentine has pushed for such legislation.

He explained:

Allowing and advising officers to tactically withdraw from situations where the suspect is a danger only to himself is a positive thing not just for the suspect and the officer, but also for the communities we serve given that courts across the country are more and more likely to allow civil rights cases against officers who use deadly force against a suicidal suspect.” Chief Wallentine continued, “HB237 is long overdue, and will result in more and better training for officers on how to more successfully engage, or disengage when necessary, when people are in crisis.”

The new bill is also supported by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Fraternal Order of Police Executive Director Ian Adams said:

It is a rare case where line officers, supervisors, prosecutors, and civil liberties groups can all agree that legislation is not just prudent, but necessary. In a country where approximately 10-29% of officer-involved shootings involve “suicide by cop,” though, HB237 is just that. It allows officers to dis-engage or withdraw from highly charged, dangerous situations, and could prove crucial to lowering the number of “suicides by cop,” meaning fewer lives lost and fewer careers on the line when an officer was just following the law and her training.”