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

Holiday Police Pay-it-Forward event....
Waverly Golden

Salt Lake City Police Department hosts holiday Pay-it-Forward event

Salt Lake City Police Department along with SLC School District paired 50 children with a police officer for a holiday shopping experience.
20 hours ago
This morning the Gary Sinise Foundation's Snowball Express made a pit stop at the new SLC Airport o...
Waverly Golden

Snowball Express arrives at Salt Lake City Airport

On Dec. 3 the Gary Sinise Foundation's Snowball Express made a pit stop at the new SLC Airport on its way to Orlando Walt Disney World. 
20 hours ago
Four Dead University of Idaho...
Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Authorities swat down rumors surrounding unsolved killings of 4 University of Idaho students

Authorities in a small Idaho city that had not recorded a murder in years are urging the public to be vigilant against rumors and conjectures surrounding the unsolved killings of four college students last month.
20 hours ago
A burrow is among the items an adopted desert tortoise needs. Photo by Utah Division of Wildlife Re...
Mia Alberti, Lianne Kolirin and Tara Subramaniam, CNN

Jonathan the tortoise, world’s oldest land animal, celebrates his 190th birthday

The South Atlantic island of St. Helena is celebrating the birthday of the world's oldest living land animal -- a Seychelles giant tortoise called Jonathan, who is turning 190.
20 hours ago
Cam Rising losing his helmet (Photo Credit, Wally Skalij, LA Times)...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: The long and winding road to the championship

Never give up, not on each other, the children, or life. We may be down, but never out. Keep fighting for the things we hold dear. We believe in each other.
20 hours ago
In this image taken from NASA video, a solar panel is unfolded at the International Space Station, ...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

Astronauts will give the space station a power boost during Saturday spacewalk

The International Space Station will receive a power boost during a spacewalk on Saturday, as NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio install a solar array outside the floating laboratory.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Dave and Dujanovic: ACLU releases critical report on Operation Rio Grande