SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly a week after the police shooting that wounded a 13-year-old Salt Lake City boy with autism, we are hearing for the first time from Salt Lake City’s police chief about the case.
But at the same time, the city’s former police chief is denouncing transparency within the department.
Both men spoke Thursday on KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic.
Above: listen to our interviews with both Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown and former chief Chris Burbank
What we know about what happened
The mother of 13-year-old Linden Cameren, Golda Barton, tells KSL TV she called police Friday night to ask for an officer trained for situations involving mental health to help because her son was having trouble. He has autism and Asperger’s syndrome, she said.
Barton wasn’t at home at the time. She started driving toward her home, near 500 S. Navajo St. in the Glendale neighborhood, and called 911 from the car.
“I explained to them he’s upset. He’s having an episode, he needs to go to the hospital,” said Barton.
According to Salt Lake City police, when they got the call, they were asked to respond to a report of a “juvenile” having a “violent psychological issue.” Police have said when they came into contact with Cameren, he ran.
Barton did not see what happened, but she could hear it.
“I heard the guns and the yelling and the guns, and then I sat there in my car for what felt like a long time and I was waiting for someone to walk over to me because I didn’t know what just happened,” Barton said.
Police have not released how many rounds were fired or how many hit the teen.
Cameren continues to recover at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Chief promises transparency
Police Chief Mike Brown could not confirm the sequence of events in an interview with Dave & Dujanovic on KSL NewsRadio, pointing to three separate investigations both inside and outside the Salt Lake City Police Department that will determine the facts.
When pressed about transparency with the use of force, Brown said while he couldn’t offer more details yet, the department would release video from the shooting of the teen within 10 business days.
“I think that’s a big step in transparency, and then following that, as these investigations unfold, we will — we will inform the public as to the findings, and we hope that this goes very swiftly,” Brown said.
Sharp criticism from former chief in shooting of teen with autism
Chris Burbank, a former Salt Lake City police chief, disagreed that the department is now being transparent.
“This is the mistake that’s being made across the country time and time again,” Burbank said. “The nation has stood up and said, ‘We have a problem and we need to discuss this.’ And the response from policing locally and across the nation is, ‘Well, we’re going to talk about it and investigate it, and then we’ll tell you about it later.’ That is not satisfactory. If we cannot respond as a police agency to a 13-year-old child who has autism without shooting him — I don’t know if we should be in this business.”
Burbank continued, “I’m tired of having this discussion. It is time to change the rules, change how we do business and change how we investigate this. Give the public some information about what is taking place. It does not sacrifice the outcome by any means. At least stand up and say, ‘We’re sorry that this happens!'”
Brown did express regret and sorrow about the shooting.
“This is a tragic, tragic event. Anytime a person in our community encounters our officers and an incident like this unfolds, it hurts our community. It tears at the fabric of our community,” Brown said on KSL NewsRadio. “It’s hard. This is very difficult right now.”
A larger conversation is needed
Burbank believes the investigation of any use-of-force incident must begin far before an officer pulls the trigger.
“The top of the wish list is, you need to change the criteria by which officers use deadly force,” Burbank said. “…We need to talk about the totality of the circumstances, not just that two or five seconds when the trigger is pulled. What led up to that? Why are we even there in the first place?”
Burbank stressed the issues are not those of the police alone.
“I’m not necessarily condemning the police alone. Right? We make that mistake. This system that we have in place, this law enforcement system throughout the nation, functions exactly as we put in place. It’s society. So it is time for all of us to change what the expectation of law enforcement is, and hopefully change the outcome,” Burbank said.
Police officers to receive more de-escalation training
Brown spoke about de-escalation training within his department, especially in light of new policies that affect use of force in Salt Lake City.
“We have been practicing de-escalation for quite some time. With the new order, with these new policies, we’re talking about a lot of things that will help us in that situation. We’re talking about tactics that precede the use of force, de-escalation, the duty to intervene,” Brown said. “If we see — if an officer is doing something that is escalating or not helping to resolve the situation or calm it down, other officers have a duty to step in and try to resolve that as — as best they can.”
The department announced some of those changes on Saturday, the day after the shooting of the teen with autism.
“Everything we’re trying to do with these new policies is to help us not be in a situation where we have to use deadly force,” Brown said.