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Changing how police complaints are handled in Utah

FILE: Unified police cars (Photo credit: Mark Wetzel, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A bill is changing how police complaints are handled in Utah. Defense attorney Steve Burton reported it is hard to find out if someone has complained about a police officer. 

“A lot of departments will have a policy where officers can purge their records after two years,” Burton told KSL NewsRadio’s “Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry”. 

That can cause problems in the courtroom. 

“These problem officers, who are the minority, do affect our clients’ rights when they’re claiming they’re innocent and the officer is lying,” Burton said. 

That is why he is supporting a bill being worked on in the Utah legislature that would change how complaints against police officers are handled. 

Under the bill, a supervisor would have to be notified about a complaint within 72 hours. That supervisor would then have 45 days to investigate the issue. 

Police complaints about things like the use of force or lying under oath would also be forwarded to the statewide Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) agency. 

Burton feels it would be an extra set of eyes on any issue. Additionally, it would simplify the process to find out if someone has made a complaint about a police officer. 

“If someone’s receiving repeated complaints, even if they’re unsustained, (POST) will be able to determine if the agency themselves might not be handling it appropriately,” Burton said. 

Lawmakers are expected to take up the final bill in January.

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