Chief Brown reflects on violent Salt Lake protests as one year anniversary looms

May 27, 2021, 9:03 AM | Updated: Dec 29, 2022, 12:14 pm

Salt lake city police car Utah rioters penalties...

A police car is engulfed in flames as people protest police brutality in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (PHOTO: Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News)

(PHOTO: Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown is reflecting almost one year after protests turned violent in the downtown area.

Learning from a violent day

On that Saturday in late May 2020, he says officers were attacked with rocks, street signs and pepper spray.

In total, 24 officers were injured that day. 

“Never seen anything like that,” he admitted to KSL-TV. “We’ve had protests and we’ve had small things of civil unrest, but nothing like we saw on May 30. We just weren’t ready for what we got.”

He points out that those events weren’t just one singular event, but that Salt Lake officers responded to around 300 protests and marches last year alone.

Rebuilding trust and teaching diversity

In his opinion, that repetition provided some valuable experience on how to better handle similar situations in the future.

For example, a demonstration outside the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office was handled much differently than the May 30 violent protest.

“From the time that was declared an unlawful assembly until we had shut that down and moved people out… 18 minutes,” he explained. “That’s a stark difference.”

Now, he says the emphasis is on rebuilding trust with the community and improving their internal practices.

“As we get more officers in our department, we’ll have more time to do those things, but those are a priority,” he said. “Those are the things that people want.”

He adds that around 30 new officers are in training right now to eventually join the department. It comes after they lost roughly 45 officers last year due to retirement and resignation.

Dave & Dujanovic: SLC needs more police officers but also more social workers

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Chief Brown reflects on violent Salt Lake protests as one year anniversary looms