The Provo and Orem police departments recently spoke out about what they’re doing to prevent police brutality and racism. But their statements received mixed responses.
The police statements were made after the killing of George Floyd sparked many voices to protest against police brutality and racism, two issues that are largely connected to the many cases of police violence against black people in America.
Data from the website ‘Mapping Out Police Violence’ shows that in 2019, black people were three-times more likely to be killed by police than the rest of the population.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and Provo City Police Chief Rich Ferguson released a statement on June 2 titled “Voices Heard” that talks about George Floyd and the city’s commitment to protecting residents.
“That commitment extends to the ongoing training of our officers on implicit bias, community policing and cultural diversity,” the statement says.
The Provo Police Department then released a statement on June 3 through its social media that contained an FAQ that explained the actions it will take in fulfilling its mission statement.
“We work with citizens to improve quality of life, safeguard liberties, solve problems, and stop crime. We provide proactive service in a professional, compassionate manner,” the mission statement reads.
The FAQ answered questions such as, “How does the city handle police officer complaints?,” “What type of discrimination and de-escalation training exist within the city?” and “What is Provo City’s standard on police brutality?”
The Orem Police Department also released a statement on June 3, however it was only posted on as a Facebook post on their page.
Orem Police Chief Gary Giles wrote about the things that the department is doing to maintain trust in its officers, such as body cameras, de-escalation training, implicit bias training and use of force review.
These were similar to the tactics the Provo Police Department mentioned in its statement.
Despite both departments releasing statements in response to the issue, the reception ranged from approval to dissatisfaction.
Orem resident Bradie Marie Fowler positively commented on the Orem Police’s Facebook statement.
“Thank you for this statement,” she said. “I appreciate the transparency and humanity shown by the OPD.”
On the other hand, those who were dissatisfied called for clarification in specific wording within the statements. One of the big issues desired clarification on how the police departments will investigate complaints.
“A third party needs to investigate any issues,” Boudica Luther commented on the Facebook post. “I’m not letting my children decide the punishment they get for doing wrong, neither should the department in question, otherwise, it is just more of the same and nothing changes.”
Community organization ‘Women’s March Provo’ posted on its Instagram on June 4 a seven-day initiative to call upon all Utah County police for more changes to police policy.
“Calling our police precincts shows the police that we are serious about change,” they said. “It is also something that vulnerable populations can get involved with.”
The initiative is co-sponsored by “Project Blindspot,” a website created by Evelyn Harper and Kofi Aidoo, two black BYU advertising students.
Both groups ask for people to call police and request for them to release a statement condemning police brutality, improve racial bias training, improve de-escalation training and commit to not using lethal force.
Women’s March Provo also posted on its story a video of a positive experience from one Provo resident who spoke with the Provo Police Department on the phone.
The organization has not commented on whether it has seen the statements released by the Provo and Orem Police departments, however it encouraged people to contact their local precincts and have a conversation about the issues with their local leaders.