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New bill would set time limits for police use-of-force investigations

(PHOTO: KSL Newsradio's Dan Bammes)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Utah House supports a bill that would set deadlines for investigations when a police officer injures or kills someone.  

Setting a deadline for investigations

HB154 would specifically require that a district or county attorney’s office complete a review into an officer’s use of force within 120 days. 

The bill is being sponsored by Representative Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan.

“A lot of times, our law enforcement, when there’s an incident, the officers, everyone investigating it, they know who shot the gun, they know what happened, who was all involved,” she told members of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. “But sometimes D.A. offices can sit on this information, and not only does that leave the justice from being served more swiftly, but it also leaves an officer sitting and waiting to find out what their fate is.”

The bill would allow offices to take longer to review cases if they post a public statement on their website and include a reason for the delay, in addition to a reasonable estimate of when the review should be completed. 

Giving a clear warning

The measure also would require officers, when possible, to identify themselves as a peace officer and “give a clear oral warning of his or her intent to use a firearm or other physical force.”

Representatives from several law enforcement associations voiced their support for the bill during the meeting, in addition to some other lawmakers.

“It is important to report in a timely fashion once an investigation’s been turned over,” explained Nate Mutter, assistant chief of investigations for the Utah Attorney General’s Office. “We don’t want to leave the law enforcement officers or the families that have been involved with some sort of critical incident hanging.”

“I think that is greatly needed,” Representative Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said of the bill.

It eventually passed the House unanimously and now moves to the Senate for consideration.