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Live Mic: Rep. Ray on limiting power of civilian review boards

File -- Representative Paul Ray, (PHOTO: KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Republican lawmaker says he supports civilian review boards, but that an elected official — police chief, mayor or city council members — should make the final call on police reform.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield joined Lee Lonsberry on “Live Mic” to discuss civilian review boards, their powers over police departments in Utah, and his bill that limited their abilities.

Two cities in Utah, Salt Lake City and West Valley City, have civilian review boards.

Ray in the Utah House and Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, in the state Senate, passed a bill (HB415) through both chambers that would clarify that the civilian review board could investigate police activity. But the bill also stated that the board would have no authority over a police chief and could not act independently from the police department.

The board could not veto a new policy or strike down a current one. It would have neither power over police budgets, hiring or firing of police personnel, nor rules, regulations, policies or procedures.

The bill became law in May 2019.

“Wrong way to go”

“I am grateful to you for this legislation. I agree with its rationale. And I’m glad that it’s in place. What led you to introduce this legislation when you did?” Lee said.

“We were getting a lot of push — Salt Lake City specifically,” Ray said.  “They [anti-law enforcement activists] wanted to take control of the police department. Basically, it would’ve usurped the authority of the chief and of the city council. It would’ve even taken 3 percent of the law enforcement budget.

“Law enforcement is underfunded the way it is . . . which would’ve been about $2 million I want to say. . . If you look at it in its totality is absolutely the wrong way to go. Seeing how this could become a big push, I decided to step in and say ‘You know what, I fully support citizen review boards. But they need to stay citizen review boards,” Ray said.

Elected official makes the call, not civilian review boards

“Is there a value to the citizen’s review board without the authority, which you took from them in this legislation?” Lee asked. “What’s the value of a review board with merely the ability to make recommendations?”

“Very valuable,” Ray said. “If you look at Salt Lake City, Police Chief [Mike] Brown right now works really well with the review board. They have the ability to go in and investigate, to look at different things and to give recommendations.

“But you have a police chief who has a lot of experience — usually at least a bachelor’s to a master’s degree. And they really understand law enforcement at a much higher level than a civilian,” Ray said.

“So you have that person making the final call. But the input from that review commission, the ability to oversee an officer’s actions, I think that’s important because it really calls into account if an officer gets out of line. . . But it needs to be the chief, the mayor or the city council making that final decision.”

Ray said he’s hesitant to take a lot of action toward police reform during the special session of the Legislature on Thursday and Friday.

“We’re in the heights of a lot of emotion on this. And emotion is not the best way to legislate,” Ray said. “You really need to legislate once everything has calmed down. You can take a good look at the facts and work things very transparently.”


Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.