Utah lawyer promoted filming police with #ShootTheCops hashtag. Despite changing it, police group wants him punished.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Passersby record an interaction between a police officer and a protester during protests in Salt Lake City, Saturday, May 30, 2020.

A Salt Lake City attorney is urging Utahns to record video of police officers but, faced with withering criticism from the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, he’s changed the hashtag from #ShootTheCops to #RecordTheCops.

“We’ve changed our strategy because the [FOP] has mischaracterized what our message was,” said criminal defense attorney Jesse M. Nix.

The FOP, however, is still demanding that Nix be removed from a commission that nominates lawyers to become state judges. In return, Nix accused the organization’s president and executive director of “purposely mischaracterizing” his message and said they “must resign.”

On Thursday, Nix and his law partner, Kate Conyers, each posted on Facebook: “#ShootTheCops because they are shooting at you. #ShootTheCops to prove your innocence. #ShootTheCops to prove the truth.” The hashtags are accompanied by emojis of cameras and cellphones.

The post — which was taken down on Friday afternoon — included video clips of police officers beating and shooting at suspects and animals and an image that stated, “Recording is your best tool against police.”

Utah FOP executive director Ian Adams contacted Nix and urged him to take the post down. “I get the play on words, but maybe this isn’t the right time for it,” he said.

Nix refused, so the FOP sent a letter decrying the “intentionally inflammatory language” and went on to “demand” that Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah State Bar remove Nix as a member of the 3rd District Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission nominates candidates to become judges in the district and juvenile courts in Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties.

The Utah Fraternal Order of Police also launched a change.org petition calling for Nix’s removal. It had about 2,800 signatures by 3 p.m. on Friday.

“Nix took to Facebook today to encourage the public to ‘Shoot the cops’ … He made sure to repeat his hateful slogan three times. There was no need for repetition, we heard the hate the first time,” Adams and Utah FOP president Brent Jex wrote in the letter.

Nix replied on Facebook that he is “appalled” that the group “is purposefully mischaracterizing my message that we should use cameras to ‘shoot the cops,’” adding that the attempt to remove him from the commission “overreaches and ignores context.”

And, he later told The Tribune, “I was offended that they were bringing in the memory of the Ogden police officer to an issue that he’s not even associated with. It’s shameful.”

In their letter calling for Nix to be removed from the commission, Jex and Adams criticized him for using “callous and depraved language" two days before funeral services are scheduled for Ogden police officer Nate Lyday, who was fatally shot while he responded to domestic violence call on May 28.

“There’s a young widow out there who just lost her husband because someone thought it was a good idea to shoot the cop,” Adams said, adding that Nix’s posts were “very irresponsible [and] inflammatory at the very worst time.”

Adams said he’s "glad to see the change from the original language. I think he got the message that it was a pretty bad idea. And then he went on to blame the FOP, as if we had created something that we didn’t.”

Nix insisted he has “never advocated using violence against police officers,” and decried the FOP’s “purposeful mischaracterization of my effort to improve the system that continues to kill people of color.”

Even after Nix changed the hashtag to #RecordTheCops, neither he nor the FOP leadership were in a conciliatory mood. Nix issued a statement that, “We’ve proven that the Utah State Fraternal Order of Police, Utah’s largest police union, will misrepresent, evade accountability, and lie when it’s in their interest — just like bad police officers do on the street.”

And he stood by his earlier statement that if Jex and Adams “are incapable of distinguishing between a genuine effort to improve the criminal justice system and a genuine death threat, they must resign. They have no business representing the many great law enforcement officers I’ve encountered who deserve to wear the badge.”

Adams said the FOP stands behind its demand that Nix be removed from the judicial commission.

“I get it that he thinks ['shoot the cops'] is a clever play on words and a good marketing device for his law firm," he said, "but as someone who sits on the judicial nominating committee, he’s expected to show much better judgment than that. For the harm he has caused with his very poor decision making over the last 24 hours, I would have expected him to actually apologize rather than try to blame-shift.”