ALL NEWS

Dave and Dujanovic: ACLU releases critical report on Operation Rio Grande

Nov 5, 2019, 1:09 PM
homeless shelters and Homelessness in Utah...
In their latest report, the ACLU argues Operation Rio Grande created more problems than it solved. (Photo: Steve Griffin, Deseret News)
(Photo: Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It has been two years since Operation Rio Grande began. The goal was helping to rid the neighborhoods around Salt Lake City homeless shelters of crime.

The Salt Lake City police say the operation to re-house people experiencing homelessness was a success. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU) says the police were unnecessarily picking on the homeless to boost an image that the operation was successful.

ACLU of Utah report critical of police tactics

On Monday the ACLU of Utah released the outline of a report titled “Endgame for Operation Rio Grande.”  In the report, they called Salt Lake City’s approach to solving the problems of crime and homelessness a “flawed model.”

Jason Stevenson and Jason Goth from the ACLU of Utah joined KSLNewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic on Tuesday to talk about their new report.  They said they don’t think the original intention of Operation Rio Grande was to target the homeless for low-level crimes. But, they say that’s what it became.

“When you look at the data, they (Salt Lake City police) said they’re going to go after the worst of the worst,” Stevenson said,  “but, in the first 35 days of Operation Rio Grande, you had about 1,200 arrests.  About 70% of them were for misdemeanors and infractions and warrants. So they did pick up some felons, but a lot of the folks were picked up for lower-level crimes.”

Insufficient infrastructure

The ACLU of Utah says Salt Lake City police did not provide sufficient infrastructure to accommodate the increased level of arrests that came from Operation Rio Grande.

As a result, Goth says, some people never received their promised treatment.

“That’s a problem,” Goth says. “And that’s something that we’re seeing in the courts. And so if you go to Justice Court and watch what happens, that becomes a revolving door, you start seeing the same faces over and over again.”

Proponent disagrees with “targeting” charge

Former Speak of the Utah House of Representatives, Greg Hughes, led the charge to clean up crime and camping in Utah in 2017. He says of Operation Rio Grande that police did not target the homeless population for minor crimes. “It’s false,” he said.

“This has been community outreach and I’m very proud of our [Utah] Highway Patrol and our local law enforcement who’s really engaged in that area.

“Show me the metropolitan area in this country where we’re seeing lawlessness addressed like we are here in Salt Lake and in Utah. And show me, where the ACLU is concerned, are being considered or implemented the way they want it and it’s working. I see it nowhere in the country,” Hughes said.

Pre-Operation Rio Grand environment

Salt Lake City Chief of Police Mike Brown says it’s important to understand the context of crime in Salt Lake’s downtown area before Operation Rio Grande began.

“I’ve said this before [Salt Lake City] was the Amsterdam of the country,” Brown said.

“Colorado had legalized marijuana, by default Salt Lake City had legalized everything because there were no consequences for bad behavior.”

Brown says he doesn’t think his officers were targeting the homeless either.

“We knew that we could never rest our way out of it,” he told KSL Newsradio’s Dave and Dujanovic on Tuesday.

“The most expensive, least effective treatment in the world is taking somebody to jail and incarcerating them.”

Brown says that progress has been slow, but overall it has been a success and that they’ve learned a lot.

You can hear the rest of the conversation that Dave and Debbie had in the podcast below.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7. Courte...
Devin Oldroyd

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is coming back to Salt Lake City

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7.
1 day ago
Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. Photo credit: Uta...
Devin Oldroyd

Hogle Zoo welcomes new Red Panda in effort to conserve the species

Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. It hopes to breed her with Mow Mow, a red panda currently living there.
1 day ago
Delta Pilots Protest....
Aimee Cobabe

Delta pilots picketing in Salt Lake City and across the country

The Delta pilots said they are trying to put increased pressure on the airline to speed up contract negotiations. Leading in areas such as pay.
1 day ago
Animal Shelter...
Amie Schaeffer

Keeping pets safe during firework season

Salt Lake County Animal Services gives tips to keep pets safe during fireworks to keep them calm and protected.
1 day ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
DARLENE SUPERVILLE and ZEKE MILLER Associated Press

Biden says transatlantic alliance has adapted to new threats

Biden's comments came at a press conference in Madrid at the conclusion of the annual meeting of NATO leaders and after he attended a summit with the Group of Seven advanced democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps.
1 day ago
A Rite Aid logo is displayed on its store...
HALELUYA HADERO, AP Reporter

Amazon, Rite Aid cap purchase of emergency contraceptives

Retailers limiting purchases is standard practice that helps retailers prevent stockpiling and reselling at higher prices.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Dave and Dujanovic: ACLU releases critical report on Operation Rio Grande