Salt Lake City Council decries police shooting, vows change

(Jeremy Harmon | Tribune file photo) This file photo shows Salt Lake City Hall on June 28, 2018.

The Salt Lake City Council did not mince words after the release of police body camera footage that shows officers shoot a 22-year-old man in the back at least 20 times as he ran away from them.

“We feel outraged at the death of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal,” the council said in a news release. “We are angry about having someone shot and killed in our City.”

The council acknowledged that Utahns “are not interested in words," making it clear that everything about the death of Palacios-Carbajal needs to be examined.

“We believe the current system that allows these type of events to continue is unacceptable,” they wrote. “We will not stand by and allow the current systems to fail us again and again.”

(photo courtesy of Elsa Karina Palacios) Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal is seen in family photos. He was killed by Salt Lake City police on May 23, 2020.

Bodycam video shows the Salt Lake City man running from police officers who were responding to a 911 call about a gun threat near a motel.

The council pledged to consider both long- and short-term changes and to work with the city administration, the state and others to encourage changes that are outside of the council’s scope.

Council members plan to have a more complete conversation on Tuesday that will review the police department budget, look at requiring additional police training, review body camera use, and examine changes to the city’s police Civilian Review Board.

They will carefully examine the training that is provided by Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), and by the Salt Lake City Police Department for new officers. Council members also plan to get community, academic and professional advice to decide what type of training is needed as well as plans to continue funding social workers in the police department and potentially expanding their role.

“Our whole nation is grieving on so many levels," the council said, “and the death of Palacios-Carbajal adds another level of profound grief that will be felt here in Salt Lake City and nationwide.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s director of communications, Lindsey Nikola, said the mayor stands ready to work with the council on needed changes.

“We are excited to work with the council on our joint initiative to ensure racial equality in policing,” Nikola said, adding that the administration is working “on specific policy objectives and changes, as well as better community engagement with people who are rightfully feeling disenfranchised.

“That’s been a goal of the mayor since Day 1," Nikola said, “and while we’ll be making some near-term changes, was the impetus behind launching the work to formulate the citywide equity plan.”

In a Tweet Friday, the mayor apologized to Palacios-Carbajal’s family, saying, “As a sister, and mother, what I see and hear in this video is genuinely disturbing and upsetting.”

She noted that an independent investigation is ongoing and that more information about the shooting will be released in the next few days, urging the department to investigate quickly so that “everyone can get the answers they deserve.”

Mendenhall said outrage is understandable, given all that the country is going through, and noted the fear that many people of color are feeling.

"I can say unequivocally that as a mother, a sister, and a human, my heart is with Bernardo’s family today,” the mayor wrote on social media. “I am sincerely sorry for the loss of your son, brother, friend, community member.”

On June 3, with the support of members of the Salt Lake City Council, Mendenhall signed the Obama Foundation’s Commit to Action Pledge, a promise to review use of force policies, include a diverse range of input in the review, report findings back to the community, and institute reforms.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown had no immediate comment.