Tangaro Law | Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer

Utah Police Shootings

In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lack of an indictment for Police Officer Darren Wilson, has caused many in the country to question the actions of police officers and their use, or in some cases overuse of deadly force.

Nowhere is this concern more prevalent than in Utah. In the past five years, Police Officers have to lead to more deaths than Gang members, drug dealers, or child abusers.

That is a shocking statistic, to say the least. In 2014, 13 Utahns have died from fatal shootings involving police officers. Additionally, since 2010 police-involved shootings have led to the death of 45 Utahns, roughly fifteen percent of all homicides over that course of time.

Furthermore, all but one of these homicides have been found to be justified by the Salt Lake County prosecutors office, and the one that was determined to be illegal the 2012 shooting of Danielle Willard, was thrown out by a judge. This leads many to believe that the powers that be in Utah believe these killings to be an inevitable cost of keeping the state safe.

Under Utah Law, an Officer is licensed to use deadly force when they have a reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to prevent serious injury or death. Necessary is the operative word in that law. Weber State University criminology professor and former Omaha Nebraska chief of police Robert Wadman weighed in.

“Sometimes the line between is it legal and is it necessary becomes difficult to distinguish,” Wadman said. “In the judgment of the officer, ‘Is my life in jeopardy? Yes.’ At that point in time, they’re legally grounded in using deadly force. But the question is, is it necessary? That’s something that needs to be firmly addressed, for example, in training.”

Cara Tangaro, Salt Lake City, Utah Criminal Defense Attorney