POLICE

“Garrity bill,” exempting some statements from public records requests, advances

Feb 18, 2022, 6:08 PM
garrity bill utah zane james police shooting parents...
FILE: Tiffany and Aaron James, the parents of Zane James, have repeatedly sought public records related to their son's shooting death at the hands of police. Tiffany James testified Friday against a bill that would exempt statements made by police officers in a similar internal investigation. Photo: KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would make it harder for reporters and the public to obtain certain statements, known as Garrity statements, made by government employees during internal investigations advanced to the full House after a hearing Friday morning. 

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted to send House Bill 399 to the full House after a hearing in which the mother of a man shot by police testified. 

It targets the types of public records available through GRAMA, Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act.  

GRAMA and compelled testimony

Like the Freedom of Information Act, which allows the public and the media to request records from federal government agencies, GRAMA allows the public and the media to access records from state and local agencies in Utah.  

H.B. 399 affects a small part of GRAMA. Specifically, it would impact official, compelled statements made by government employees as part of an internal investigation. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, says his bill would allow public employees to share their concerns and statements without fear of trial in the court of public opinion. 

“How likely is an employee to open up to you about a difficult issue, perhaps one in which they made a significant mistake, if after the interview, the content of that crucial conversation is going to be used to sell newspapers?” he asked. 

Garrity bill affects public, not just media

Others, however, argued that the bill would target more than just members of the media. Police officers shot and killed Tiffany James’s son in 2018. She’s been fighting for public records related to the case ever since, including body camera footage and Garrity statements. 

“It is simply unacceptable for government and law enforcement to expect that they can have a crisis that occurs and not be held accountable for it,” she testified. 

Sheryl Worsley, the vice president of podcasting for Bonneville International, which operates KSL NewsRadio, testified against the bill, saying its exemption for Garrity statements thwarts transparency. 

“When an officer is involved in the shooting of a suspect, internal investigations determining whether that officer complied with department policies to de-escalate, whether they followed the department training and other policies are well within the public’s right to know,” she said. 

The lawmakers on the House committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full House. It still needs approval from the House and Senate before it would head to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk. 

Related content:

Today’s Top Stories

Police

Police in Elko, Nev., are seeking the public's assistance in locating a suspect in connection to fi...
Mark Jones

Nevada police searching for suspect who fired into at least three buildings

Police in Elko, Nevada, say someone shot a firearm into at least three different businesses on Monday night. Police say there were no injuries reported.
1 day ago
An officer is in stable condition after a shooting that left one dead on Sept. 27, 2022. (Adam Smal...
Amie Schaeffer

Officer-involved shooting kills one, sends officer to hospital

A South Salt Lake Police officer is in the hospital after a shots were exchanged overnight. One person kiled.
1 day ago
Salt Lake City Police responded to five different incidents involving weapons on Monday, Sept. 26, ...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake City Police respond to five different incidents with weapons

Salt Lake City Police responded to five different incidents Monday involving a weapon.
2 days ago
FILE Photo: Layton Police Department...
Devin Oldroyd

Layton City Police Department arrest wanted suspect after SWAT operation

Layton City Police Department arrested a suspect wanted for aggravated robbery following a SWAT operation outside of an apartment complex.
3 days ago
South Salt Lake Police Department...
Devin Oldroyd

Double stabbing sends grandmother and grandson to the hospital

A double stabbing in South Salt Lake has sent a grandmother and her grandson to the hospital. It is not clear at this time how the incident began.
3 days ago
Milcreek hoist...
Devin Oldroyd

Paragliding crash in Milcreek leaves one in critical condition

Unified Fire Authority hoisted the paraglider off Grandeur Peak mountain Sunday. They have been transported to the University of Utah Hospital.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
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.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
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.
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
“Garrity bill,” exempting some statements from public records requests, advances