Law enforcement agencies every year find themselves in the difficult position of having to knock down doors in pursuit of the bad guys, without ever quite knowing what they'll find on the other side. ---Lawmakers who are often tasked with regulating law enforcement, have found that there is no central database of information about all the raids—justified or perhaps not—conducted by law enforcement in the state. A bill passed out of committee Wednesday would for the first time gather data from all law law enforcement in a central report available to lawmakers and the public.
Sen. Deirdre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, passed her Senate Bill 185 to require law enforcement agencies to answer a number of mostly yes/no questions regarding reportable incidences where they may have deployed a tactical SWAT team or a taskforce was involved in executing a forcible entry into a citizens' home.
The bill would also gather data on instances of law enforcement executing controversial no-knock warrants, such as the one that in 2011 ignited a firestorm of outrage when a Weber County narcotics taskforce raided the home of Matthew David Stewart who was growing marijuana in his home and fired back at officers killing one of them.
For Henderson the bill was not meant as just a means of tracking law enforcement but was about transparency and offering policymakers the best information possible to be able to help support both the safety of law enforcement and the rights of citizens in their homes.
“As lawmakers a lot of the decisions that we make pertain to law enforcement and it would be nice to make informed decisions and have data that backs up whether or not those decisions should be made,” Henderson said adding, that it wasn't just lawmakers but also that “citizens have a right to now how law enforcement uses their authority.”
Among data that would be collected would be information about whether drugs were involved, shot s were fired during a raid and whether or not items were seized. While such information is already a public record, her bill for the first time would require all law enforcement gather and submit their data for an aggregated yearly report. Henderson gained support for her bill by meeting early on with law enforcement representatives who during the House Law Enforcement Committee spoke up in favor of her bill.
Kelly Atkinson, Director of the Utah Fraternal Order of Police spoke in favor of the bill in its ability to help lawmakers get all the facts.
“If you've watched the media over the the last year and a half, you know we've taken a lot of hits on these forcible entries. We think it's unjustified but we've taken the hits and policy makers respond to the media, you have constituents you have to answer to. This kind of data will make it easier to make good intelligent decisions about what's really taking place.”
The bill passed easily out of the committee and now heads to the House floor for further debate.
To read SB 185 click here. To contact Sen. Henderson about this bill click here. To find you legislator to contact them about this bill click here. For more updates form the hill visit @CityWeekly.net and follow @EricSPeterson and @ColbyFrazierLP on Twitter.