Saturday, July 4, 2020

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    Reporter Carter Pape covers news out of the Grand County Council Chambers, including housing, tourism, crime, and more.

    In advance of a Grand County Council discussion on race and justice scheduled for Tuesday, June 16, The Times-Independent reached out to elected officials to ask them about some of the policy changes that local and national protestors have sought in recent weeks, from reforms enumerated by the #8CANTWAIT project to defunding police departments and starting over, as the Minneapolis City Council has pledged to do.

    Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan
    Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan in a file photo.

    Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan soon responded to the questions, adding that she was also preparing information to be released publicly about the Grand County Sheriff’s Office policies with respect to use of force.

    “I think you’ll see [the sheriff’s office] policies reflect community-oriented policies, procedures and an intent to implement the #8CANTWAIT proposals,” Sloan said.

    Authority over the budget of the sheriff’s office lies with the Grand County Council, Sloan said, and its budget “has been under scrutiny of late as it is, and there may be appropriate modifications to it.” Sloan said that she had not closely studied the budget but did say that she thinks the sheriff’s office “embodies community-oriented policing, and I do not support defunding [the sheriff’s office] as a method to change practice.”

    Sloan went on to elaborate on her opinion toward defunding efforts.

    “Defunding efforts that do not also accompany Civil Service Act reform are extremely damaging to long-term reform, in my opinion,” Sloan said. “It is very expensive to get rid of bad cops – the process can take three or so years due to the necessary investigations, administrative appeals, and then litigation. If you defund law enforcement without Civil Servant Act reform, you only make it harder to get rid of bad cops.”

    Sloan added that she thinks police brutality and racism “are not factors” in Grand County’s criminal justice system.

    “We have not had a use-of-force complaint since the 1990s, and [Chief Deputy County Attorney Matt Brooks] and I have not seen evidence of racial profiling playing a role in stops or arrests,” Sloan said. “I have seen gender bias affect investigations at the city and the county, and I bring that up not to minimize the race issue, but to make the point that Matt and I work closely with law enforcement and push them where they need it.”

    Sloan went on to add that she does regard the conversations about racism and police reform as “important” and that she has been working with Grand County Sheriff Steve White to improve each of their offices.

    “I have had implicit bias training, and I will get the same for my prosecutor,” Sloan said. “The sheriff is looking into additional and more regular bias and de-escalation trainings for his staff. We are also reviewing our hiring procedure to determine if we can better assess bias in the screening process.”

    Sloan also listed statistics about the inmate population of the Grand County Jail, saying they “do not tell the whole […] story” about who is stopped or arrested and how, but the statistics “do tell a story about who is being punished for our most serious offenses.”

    Over the past year, the jail’s population has been 70% male and 30% female, according to Sloan, whereas Grand County’s population is close to 50% male and 50% female, according to Utah University’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Over the past four years, the breakdown has been 72% male and 28% female.

    The associated table shows how the racial and ethnic demographics of people in the jail break down over the past year and the past four years and how they compare to 2018 demographic estimates for Grand County released by University of Utah.

    Sloan said that the county started housing female inmates on the state’s behalf in 2018 and that those inmates are typically racial minorities, which impacts the demographics of the inmate population as a whole. She said that the 2016-2020 demographic statistics are “more instructional.”

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