A mayoral executive order signed Tuesday says that Salt Lake City will release police body camera footage 10 business days after an officer uses force that injures or kills someone.
Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced the decision at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, which included Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Police Chief Mike Brown.
Gill and Brown expressed support for the move and said they hope it will balance the need for public transparency with the due process of an investigation.
The new order provides investigators with a “workable policy,” Gill said, and in the majority of cases, it will give his office the chance it needs to conduct its investigation.
He added that his office serves 19 municipalities, and that if others decided to implement the same practice as Salt Lake City, he would support the decision.
With the new policy, Biskupski said, “we can help eliminate unwarranted suspicion toward our law enforcement brothers and sisters and investigative agencies while we continue important dialogue that we have been having.”
The order allows for a delay in the release of body camera footage in “rare” cases with unusual circumstances, the mayor noted. An example of such a circumstance, Gill said, would be if a key witness or person involved in the shooting was injured and investigators had been unable to contact the person for an interview.
Biskupski said that, as the topic of body cameras comes up more frequently nationwide, it is important that the city has a policy that “favors transparency.”
Biskupski’s decision comes after about nine months of discussion, she said, during which she has sought feedback from other city and county leaders, and public advocacy organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
Despite applauding the city for seeking public input in a February letter, the ACLU of Utah suggested that Biskupski consider implementing a 10-day release deadline for standard requests and a five-day deadline for requests “in the public interest.”
Activist group Utah Against Police Brutality (UAPB) said in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon that it is “very concerned” about the circumstances under which the city could delay the video‘s release. In the past, UAPB has demanded that city officials release unedited footage within 24 hours of when police use force.
Biskupski “does not deserve any applause” for her decision, the group wrote, adding that the policy is “unacceptable. It does not take 10 days to release a video.”
Before Biskupski’s announcement, UAPB had planned a Tuesday protest at City Hall, and it held it anyway. At times, speakers drowned out the City Council’s discussion of board appointments, three floors up.
Francesca Ball told the council during its public comment session that the “unusual” standard gave leaders too much latitude.
“That doesn‘t hold anybody accountable to release the footage,” she said, “and especially in these cases that are unusual — that’s the reason we want to see the footage, to determine the nature of the shootings.”
UAPB organizer Stephen Michael Christian said Biskupski “spun” the narrative of Harmon’s death and has “valued the police over the lives they killed and terrorized.”
— Reporter Matthew Piper contributed to this story.