New Bill To Allow Police Misconduct Be Hidden From Public

KUTV News 2 | February 12, 2008
By Jonny Glines

A new bill proposed at the legislature would allow for police to withhold misconduct reports from the public. Supporters of the bill believe that police misconduct should be kept secret from the public so to not discredit police testimony. Others say that a forthright police unit is essential to the community.

In September, Jared Massey was zapped with a taser by Trooper John Gardner. A video of the incident was recorded from Gardner’s patrol car. Gardner can be seen shocking Massey until he hits the ground while Massey’s wife screams from the side of their SUV.

More than a million people watched the video on “YouTube.” Massey was shocked to see his new found fame. The footage may have never been seen had Massey not made a records request to obtain the tape.

Currently, misconduct reports are available in Utah with an official records request. Under the bill SB260, sponsored by Senator Chris Buttars, the video and investigation report from Massey’s tazering might have been kept secret from the public and journalists.

The bill is certainly said to be controversial. But controversy is not new to Buttars.

In the past, Buttars has received much criticism for being the topic in heated controversial issues involving homosexuality, racism and the challenging of evolution in schools.

Now, with SB260, some believe that Buttars would be allowing for hidden misconduct from those who are expected to live the highest of society’s standards.

Representative David Litvak says “I think what’s critical with law enforcement is public trust. If it appears that things are swept under the rug or not done in the light of the public; you can comprise that trust.”

But, Buttars says that the bill would only include non-criminal reports to be withheld from the public and that currently, non-criminal reports can be used in court to discredit police testimony.

A main concern of SB260 supporters is with the business “rate-my-cop,” which is a national company that has made requests for misconduct reports on every officer in every agency in the area. Buttars believes that “rate-my-cop” will put the information into a data base and sell it to defense attorneys.

“Some defense attorney can say, ‘did you do x-y-z,’ and you (the officer) would have to say yes, even though it was dismissed and not founded,” says Buttars.

It appears that like past issues; SB260 will be an item in which Buttars will have people in his support...and against him.