Murray PD reaffirms no chokehold/de-escalation policies
Jun 22, 2020 11:41AM
By Shaun Delliskave
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
As protests swept the nation following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Murray Police Department Chief Craig Burnett reaffirmed the department’s policies banning chokeholds and unnecessary force. Law enforcement policies regarding race (Floyd was black) and policing have been scrutinized.
A May 30 Salt Lake City protest turned into a riot, and five Murray police officers responded at the request of Salt Lake City, resulting in one patrol car being vandalized. Murray City was the scene of a peaceful protest on June 1, as dozens of protestors gathered on the State Street bridge spanning I-215.
Burnett addressed the June 16 Murray City Council meeting to answer questions regarding Murray’s policing. The chief and Mayor Blair Camp issued a joint letter, posted on the city’s website, highlighting various police practices.
“I think it’s always important that people understand where we are, what’s going on, especially with what’s going on in our country today. It’s never too much for us to talk about some of the things that we do and make sure we’re where we should be and looking at the things that we were asked to look at,” Burnett said.
Specifically, Burnett addressed what Murray PD’s position is on the use of restraint, including chokeholds and carotid (two main arteries in the neck) restraints.
“I want you to know we don’t train that. I’ve been doing this job for 37 years. I’ve never been trained in that. We don’t train it. Our police officers are expected to know the policies and procedures, and they’re expected to follow them, and when they violate policies and procedures, there are consequences,” Burnett said. “We don’t train it. In fact, our policy specifically states that they should not intentionally use any technique that restricts blood flow to the head, restricts respiration, or creates a reasonable likelihood that blood flow to the head or respiration would be restricted.”
Burnett emphasized that Murray police officers are trained in de-escalation techniques and receive biannual training while on the force. He also clarified the protocol for circumstances where one officer witnesses another officer using unnecessary force.
“If an officer sees something they don’t think is right, they need to do whatever they can do at the moment to try to stop that, and they’re bound by policy to report it,” Burnett said.
Murray PD requires any officer to file a report not only when they use force but when they threaten to use force. A police supervisor must come to the scene and assess what happened and ensure that needed medical treatment is rendered.
“I know our officers are working hard, doing the best they can with the training they have, and our goal is to try to make sure they have the best training,” Burnett said.
Similarly, Murray PD receives training about implicit bias to prevent stereotyping particular qualities to a member of a specific group, such as race or ethnicity.
Camp announced a proposal to sponsor a joint resolution with the City Council affirming Murray City’s commitment to police accountability and racial justice in city policing practices. The mayor also proposed the formation of a public safety advisory board. Its purpose would be to review existing police and fire department procedures, policies, standards and programs and to make recommendations to the chiefs of police and fire as well as the mayor.
While many cities have weighed in on defunding police in response to the protests, Murray did not consider that type of motion. City Councilor Diane Turner indicated the council’s willingness to add a social worker to the police staff as a resource.
A letter to residents and businesses about police policies from Burnett and Camp can be found online at www.murray.utah.gov.