Saturday, July 4, 2020


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    Police reform: Chief bristles at county attorney’s critique

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    Bret Edge

    Responding to comments from Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan on gender bias in local policing, Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge said in a Facebook post from the police department on Tuesday, June 23 that any gender bias in arrests for domestic violence incidents “most certainly isn’t because of an officer’s gender bias.”

    The comments from Sloan came from an interview with KZMU’s Molly Marcello on June 9, following the local Black Lives Matter protest four days prior. During the interview, Marcello asked Sloan about what local law enforcement could do to improve its practices, mentioning specifically a proclamation that Mayor Emily Niehaus had signed jointly with Edge prior to the protests that promised regular reviews of the department’s use-of-force policies.

    Sloan started her answer by critiquing the proclamation, saying that the city entities had not reached out to her, as the county attorney, about the proclamation.

    “I was not consulted about [the proclamation] in advance,” Sloan said. “I do think there’s a big disconnect at the city about the relationship of me and my office and [the city police department]. And that is something we’ve been working on, but I wouldn’t say is — oh, as healthy as I would like it to be at this point. So, I can’t speak to what the city is doing and what the intent of their proclamation is or where they go with it. So, I hope that it’s not just a media stunt.”

    Sloan went on to talk about discussions at the county of releasing a similar proclamation but that she didn’t want to appear to be pandering and was interested instead in “a real conversation” about reforming local police.

    Later in her answer, Sloan said that she saw gender-based discrimination in local law enforcement. Her criticism regarded local law enforcement but did not apparently target the police department over the sheriff’s office.

    “I’ll say too, that I have taken some issues with some policies and some biases [that] I see with law enforcement,” Sloan said. “In my opinion, it has been gender-based. And you will see, for example, police get called out to a domestic violence incident. And within one minute, the man’s in handcuffs. Well, they haven’t even come into survey – is the man actually the aggressor or not? They don’t wait. And then they don’t even do a full investigation. And these are exceptions, but it happens. They don’t do full investigations to actually prove that the man was the aggressor. They just listened to the woman because of bias and they don’t see it that way at all.”

    Soon after, Sloan referred to “a sexual harassment case” she thought “was horribly messed up at the county” that happened before her time as the county attorney. She said there was “a whole lot of gender bias in that sexual harassment investigation.”

    Two weeks after the interview, and after Sloan repeated some of her claims about gender-based bias in local policing, Edge took to Facebook to defend his officers.

    “Ms. Sloan’s office has never brought this perceived issue to the attention of the police department and it is our position that it is wholly inaccurate,” Edge said. “While it is true that males are arrested for domestic violence far more often than females, it most certainly isn’t because of an officer’s gender bias.”

    Sloan declined to comment on the post.

    Edge went on to include crime statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, England’s Office for National Statistics, and a 2008 study from the National Institute of Justice, many of which suggest that men are more likely to perpetrate domestic violence against women. For example, a 10-year study from the Department of Justice ending in 2012 found that 76% of non-fatal domestic violence was committed against women.

    “Moab City Police Department officers do not rush to arrest males in domestic violence incidents,” Edge said. “Our officers weigh the facts of each case and make arrests based on the totality of the situation.”

    Edge punctuated the post by saying that the department strives to improve on a regular basis and that he was “extremely proud of every member of our team,” including both officers and civilian staff.

    “They are some of the most exceptional human beings I have ever known, and it is an honor to work alongside them,” Edge said.

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