Guest editorial: Until there is police reform in Utah, there will not be ‘justice for all’
Salt Lake City
I was quite pleased to see the Black Lives Matter mural on Main Street along with the images of young men killed in police shootings in Utah. These victims are usually forgotten by everyone but their families and friends: Bobby Duckworth, Bryan Valencia, Dillon Taylor, Darian Hunt, Cody Belgard, Cinderia Europe and Chad Breinholt.
It was a wonderful gesture by the artist and others who included them in the “Justicia Para Todos” installation.
As a reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune, I covered the shootings of Dillon Taylor and Darian Hunt and the horrible aftermath suffered by their friends and loved ones. I don’t believe it was necessary that these young men had to lose their lives. And what shouldn’t be forgotten is that their families and friends lost a big part of their lives as well. They will never be the same. The parents will think of their lost sons and wonder what could have been — bright futures, new families, little children, a happy life. It tears at them every day.
I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with policing in this country. It is not the people who dedicate their lives to law enforcement. In my many years as a journalist I’ve rarely run across an officer who didn’t measure up to a high standard. Rather, it is in the training that allows deadly force when it is not absolutely necessary. Darian Hunt was running from police as fast as he could when he was shot and killed. The officers said he posed a threat. Hunt was carrying a “decorative samurai sword.” Dillon Taylor was walking away from an officer when he was ordered to take his hand out of his sweat pants. When he did, he was shot dead. He was not armed, but the officer said he feared for his life and the shooting, like the others, was deemed justified, as Utah law dictates.
We live in a violent country awash in over 300 million firearms. We should realize that police are in a very precarious position and often fear they could be shot at any moment.
Nonetheless, our Declaration of Independence guarantees the inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And the Pledge of Allegiance informs us that in this country there is “liberty and justice for all.” There was no justice for these young men. And we know in the near future that more people like them will die in a similar manner here in Utah. It will continue until we change police training, as well as policies and laws that sometimes result in the taking of lives, the ruination families and the undercutting of trust in law enforcement.
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“[I]f Park City and Summit County love Richardson Flat as much as they claim to, maybe they should demonstrate their love by cleaning it up and leading by example,” writes Micah Kagan in a letter to the editor.