Salt Lake City Police Department Code of Ethics

Utah residents have certain expectations from the Salt Lake City Police Department which can include: detecting and preventing criminal activity; answering calls from the public for assistance; and upholding their code of ethics when handling
any situation put before them.

Police conduct in question

Photo by: Dave Conner

A video was recently released showing a July incident involving a Salt Lake City police detective roughly and incorrectly handling a situation with a nurse from the University of Utah hospital. Detective Payne and officers with the Salt Lake Police Department arrived at the hospital, requesting a blood draw from Idaho reserve officer and truck driver William Gray, an innocent victim hurt by a suspect in a high speed chase. After speaking via phone to her supervisor, nurse Alex Wubbels calmly informed Detective Payne that pulling a blood sample from unconscious Gray was unethical, and violated the patient’s Fourth Amendment rights as well as hospital policy. She presented documentation that for police to obtain a blood draw from a patient, they must have either:

• Consent from the patient;
• A warrant from a judge; or
• Have already placed the patient under arrest.

After becoming visibly upset, Detective Payne forcefully removed the nurse from the hospital in handcuffs before placing her in his vehicle.

Protecting citizens from other officers

While Detective Payne’s actions were undoubtedly excessive and troubling, so was the inaction of other officers on scene. Multiple officers were seen present on the video of Payne and Wubbels confrontation however none of those officers stepped in when Payne had noticeably crossed the line and admit shouts of “help me” and “why is this happening” from scared and confused Wubbels. More troubling is why nothing was done within the department until after the video was shared more than a month later. What should Utah residents expect from police and did nurse Wubbels receive treatment from Payne and the police department that was in line with their posted Code of Ethics?

Salt Lake City Police Department Code of Ethics

Photo by: Mesa0789

According to the Salt Lake City Police Department Policies and Procedures Manual is a copy of the Constitution followed closely by the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. This section states that “All law enforcement officers must be fully aware of the ethical responsibilities of their position and must strive constantly to live up to the highest possible standards of professional policing.” The Code of Ethics lists several areas in which they are to uphold these standards. These include: “Responsibilities of a Police Officer; Performance of the Duties of a Police Officer; Discretion; Use of Force; Confidentiality; Integrity; Cooperation with Other officers and Agencies; Personal/Professional Capabilities; and Private Life.

Violation of the Code of Ethics

Some of these “ethical mandates” above do not appear to be portrayed by any members of the police department present during the incident that took place at the University of Utah Hospital. These include:

Responsibilities of a Police officer. The first section of the Code of Ethics state “A police officer acts as an official representative of government who is required and trusted to work within the law. ( . . . ) The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community, safeguarding lives and property; protecting the innocent; keeping the peace; and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.”

Performance of the Duties of a Police Officer. According to the next section, “All citizens will be treated equally with courtesy, consideration and dignity. ( . . . ) Laws will be enforced appropriately and courteously and, in carrying out their responsibilities, officers will strive to obtain maximum cooperation from the public. They will conduct themselves in ( . . . ) such a manner as to inspire confidence and respect of the position of public trust they hold.”

Use of Force. Another section of the Code of Ethics explains that “[a] police officer will never employ unnecessary force or violence and will use only such force in the discharge of duty as is reasonable in all circumstances. Force should be used only with the greatest restraint and only after discussion, negotiation and persuasion have been found to be inappropriate or ineffective. While the use of force is occasionally unavoidable, every police officer will refrain from applying the unnecessary infliction of pain or suffering and will never engage in cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment of any person.”

Victims of police force

Nurse Wubbels was an innocent party to the incident at the hospital who was trying to keep the peace herself while protecting another innocent person- her patient William Gray. Not only was Detective Payne uncourteous in his performance, degrading Wubbels in front of her coworkers and other patients while using unnecessary force, the other officers on scene did nothing to protect her or her patient’s rights from Payne’s outrageous behavior. While unfortunate, this scene should encourage the department to increase their training regarding working with health care employees and treating citizens professionally and civilly.

Shot by Police – Unnecessary Use of Deadly Force on the Rise

A quick search of the phrase “ shot by police ” results in a rising number of both state and nationwide cases where the unnecessary use of deadly force by law enforcement is questionable to say the least.

Shot by Police

Photo by: Joanna

Photo by: Joanna

According to the public Facebook page “Killed by Police”, 84 people lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement in the month of April. So Far, seven individuals have been shot by police in May and it is only the third day of the month. Some of the officer involved shootings resulted from police returning fire while others ensued from police opening fire on armed suspects after feeling threatened. Then there are the instances where unarmed individuals are shot by police and no one really understands why.

Birds of a feather

On April 20, 2017 a fugitive task force team in Arizona comprising of six different local and federal agencies was assembled to locate and arrest 25 year old Brandon Pequeno after he was involved in an altercation with an ex-girlfriend and presumably fled in her car. Police reports state Pequeno had multiple warrants and was “considered” armed and dangerous while they also “believed” he was driving a stolen vehicle. For these reasons, a barrage of reinforcements was called in. Police later revealed Pequeno was not armed and that not a single weapon was found in the vehicle.

“Fearing for their lives”

Shot by Police

Photo by: Matthrono

Police located the car Pequeno was driving which also contained two passengers in a small parking lot of an apartment building and ordered him to surrender. Pequeno refused and in an attempt to flee police, hit several cars within that parking lot. Officers then used their undercover vehicles to pin Pequeno in, making it impossible for him to continue doing damage to the parked cars in the lot. Then for reasons still unknown to many, officers opened fire on the car – the spray of bullets hurtling through the windows of the car, striking Pequeno and a 17 year old female passenger. The third passenger in the car was miraculously unharmed.

 

17 year old St. George native

Pequeno suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest that proved fatal and shortly after he arrived at a local hospital he was pronounced dead. The 17 year old female who was shot by police suffered at least one gunshot wound to the head, leaving her brain-dead. After unselfishly saving multiple lives through organ donation, the teen was taken off life support and died shortly after. The teenager, whose name is being withheld out of respect for her family, was a native to St. George, Utah. Numerous family members of the teen still live in the St. George area where they continue to await information as to why police would display an unnecessary use of deadly force that would take the lives of two individuals, one of which was an innocent child.

333 shot by police

Photo by: Martin Fisch

Photo by: Martin Fisch

Unfortunately, unnecessary use of deadly force by police appears to be on the rise. The 17 year old St. George native and Pequeno were not the only unarmed citizens shot by police this year. 397 people total have been killed by police in 2017 so far; most of them, including 3 Utah residents, suffering fatal gunshot wounds at the hands of police. A thorough and regularly updated article by the Washington Post states that 44 of those victims shot by police in 2017 were either unarmed, unknown, or in possession of a toy weapon. Only 173 were reported to be in possession of an actual firearm; the remaining were armed with knives, a vehicle, or other item that reportedly left police feeling fearful.

Last resort only

With the uptick in violent offenses against police, it is understandable that law enforcement officers may be on edge and fearful of their own injury or death. For this reason, police should be properly trained to handle situations coolly, without letting fear cause them to become trigger happy. We expect our men and women in blue to remain calm and collected in times of trouble and to be the ones we trust to keep us safe when dangerous situations arise. We hope their choice to use deadly force would be a last resort only.

New Bill Increases Penalties for Targeting a Police Officer in Utah

A new bill that increases penalties for targeting a police officer has passed the House and Senate, leaving it awaiting a signature from Utah’s governor.

Crimes against law enforcement

Photo by: David Robert Bliwas

Photo by: David Robert Bliwas

There have been numerous stories in the news lately of police officers being targeted and then injured or killed based solely on their profession. Many of these crimes against police are said to stem from the public view of law enforcement turning sour following increased occurrences of police brutality. While the instances of police brutality that have angered the public are inexcusable, so is killing or injuring a police officer just because of their job choice. This increase of danger to law enforcement is what was on the mind of Utah lawmakers when House Bill 433 was drafted.

HB433- death for cop killers?

House Bill 433 was originally intended by Representative Paul Ray, R-Clearfield to extensively punish those convicted of targeting a police officer while labeling the condemned person as a terrorist. His goal was apparently to increase penalties for those convicted and have the death penalty be a mandatory sentence for if the targeted law enforcement officer is killed. This “blue lives matter more than other lives” bill needed a few revisions such as removing the required death sentence penalty for cop killers, but has eventually been tweaked enough to make its way through the House and Senate.

Targeting a police officer – defined

Targeting a Police Officer

Photo by: BaronneVonR

The new revised HB433 has taken a step back a notch to allow prosecutors, judges, and juries to continue to be the ones responsible for deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty for cop killers. It also removes the “terrorist” label from those convicted. It now “defines [what exactly it means by] ‘targeting a law enforcement officer’’. This definition is in the new section of Utah Code (76-5-210) included in the bill. This code states: “”Targeting a law enforcement officer” means the commission of any offense involving the unlawful use of force and violence against a law enforcement officer, causing serious bodily injury or death in furtherance of political or social objectives in order to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence or affect the conduct of a government or a unit of government.”

Aggravated murder

HB433 also “adds targeting a law enforcement officer to the aggravating factors for aggravated murder”. Previously, aggravated murder charges were saved for those who committed homicide under serious circumstances defined in Utah Code 76-5-202 such as: if multiple homicides occur together; a homicide that takes place after or during an episode of another heinous offense such as rape or kidnapping; a homicide that is done for payment; homicide committed by someone in custody or someone trying to escape custody; or a homicide committed by a person previously convicted of a serious offense. This section also previously stated that aggravated murder charges would ensue if the homicide victim was a public official or a police officer. HB433 redundantly added that aggravated murder charges would result if the actor committing homicide did so while targeting a police officer.

First degree aggravated assault

Photo by: marina

Photo by: marina

One big change made in HB433 that may have been missed among the superfluous information added to other sections is the changes made to Utah’s aggravated assault penalties. Utah Code 76-5-103 defines other aggravated assault behavior as conduct “that is:

(i)an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

(ii) a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or

(iii) an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and

(b) that includes the use of:

(i) a dangerous weapon as defined in Section 76-1-601; or

(ii) other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.”

Utah Code 76-5-103 also lists the penalties for aggravated assault as a third degree felony or a second degree felony if serious bodily injury occurs to the victim. Once HB433 is signed by Governor Herbert, it will add targeting a police officer to this section of Utah Code and “[make] aggravated assault a first degree felony if a law enforcement officer is targeted.” Someone who is convicted of targeting a police officer and seriously injuring said officer could face up to life in prison because their target was a cop. Maybe blue lives really do matter more.

For more information on upcoming changes to Utah law and how it can affect your case, contact a criminal defense attorney.