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Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter Talks About Policing Practice In Wake Of Protests

Park City

The Park City Police Department, like many law enforcement agencies around the country, is feeling the impacts of George Floyd’s death which resulted from an interaction with the Minneapolis Police force.

Chief Carpenter says the George Floyd episode is difficult and they and many other police forces are working to reestablish trust with their communities.

“Unfortunately, I think it's really tainted and tarnished all of our badges in a sense that we've had good relationships in many of our communities throughout the country and now I think there's a perception that law enforcement is OK with this and it absolutely is not. And I think that's frustrating for officers.”

Some reformists want to prohibit police behaviors such as firing without warning. Carpenter explains why this would be difficult from a safety standpoint.

“A lot of the things as they unfolded in Atlanta--that's exactly what the officers were doing there as well--were telling him to drop the taser over and over. Our officers are trained to do that as well. Unfortunately, in some scenarios, an officer does not have time to provide a warning.”

Another reform being widely discussed is prohibiting firing a weapon at a moving vehicle. Carpenter says it’s not common for the police to discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle but there are instances when it can save lives. He pointed out that two Utah officers have been intentionally struck by vehicles.

“We’ve seen an increase over the past few years, worldwide, of terrorists using vehicles to ram large crowds. And officers have been able to decrease the loss of life through shooting at moving vehicles when they're running over citizens.”

Carpenter says during high stress situations, shooting a person in an appendage can be very difficult.

“Others who could be injured, you could shoot a leg or an arm and they can continue to return fire on the officer. So essentially, if deadly force is warranted, that's how the officers are trained because the assailant typically will continue to return fire.”

When asked about suspects who are not armed, Carpenter replies:

“When an officer gives a lawful order that it's important those are complied with, because we can't see, we don't have a controlled environment that a lot of people think we do.”

Carpenter says it’s not realistic to send therapists into the field to deal with mental illness incidents. He says typically, there aren’t enough resources. Most officers are trained in de-escalation techniques such as Crisis Intervention Training.

“Giving them mental health, first aid and CIT training so that they can evaluate those once the individual is no longer a threat to themselves or others. Then we’ll transport that person to the hospital facility for evaluation.”

Carpenter has the expectation that Park City Police officers know their neighborhoods with a special emphasis on getting to know the young people who live there.

“They have sector responsibility meaning they have accountability to the community, accountability to their sectors. We like to keep them in the sectors because they start community policing programs within those sectors. It gets them out of their cars, gets them to where they have created relationships of trust.”

Carpenter says 18% of the workforce in his department are Spanish speakers. The ethnic makeup of the department is not reflective of the population in Park City, but he says they look for diversity and second language skills when they hire new officers.

“We constantly are working on that. We try very hard to recruit and hire officers from different ethnic backgrounds. Currently our makeup is 84% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic, 6% Pacific Islander and Asian.”

Park City Mayor and Council are currently taking applications for citizens who are interested in serving on the Police Complaint Review Committee. Go to Parkcity.org for more information.