Name the Bastards!
Despite the massive uprising of 2020, when Salt Lake City erupted in outrage against the violence perpetrated by SLCPD, 2022 was a banner year for the department in terms of lethal violence. It is hard not to see their continued violence as a complete disregard for the public will, but if that’s what they are ignoring, then what are they doing this violence in service of? Their mission statement claims they “serve as guardians of our community to preserve life” and “maintain human rights”, but they also don’t forget to mention their true purpose: to “protect property”. While their focus on protecting property over any other supposed values is obvious at this point, it is important to understand what, and who, in the community fuels that focus. The answer is, broadly, capitalists, who with the aid of local “journalists”, provide cover for both themselves and the police. Two of the most egregious killings by SLCPD in 2022, which we will discuss below, were initiated in direct response to the victims, very slightly, interfering with business, after which local journalists did little to nothing to surface the simple facts or to investigate what led to the incidents in the first place.
We will serve as guardians of our community to preserve life, maintain human rights, protect property, and promote individual responsibility and community commitment.– SLCPD Mission Statement
On January 11th, 2022 SLCPD Officer Joshua Hoyle was working security in uniform while off duty, which, somehow, is legal under UT Code §53-13-114, when he supposedly saw Ms. Mohn trying to enter a petroleum refinery holding a piece of rebar. He asked her to drop it and by his own account she complied. He then went on to order her to sit, which is allegedly when she started “screaming incoherent language” and ran away. At this point he decided to detain her and called for backup. From here, the rest is available on the responding officers’ body cams which were released on August 11, 2022. In that footage, the responding officers all have their last names or badge numbers visible, if the viewer is willing to do a frame-by-frame analysis. Despite this, none of the local coverage we were able to find regarding the incident, even from our flagship paper who wrote about the incident under a dramatic title, mentioned the names or badge numbers of any of the four involved officers. Is this lack of information simply a dearth of journalistic ability? Laziness? Or is it that their goal never was to hold police accountable?
Three days after SLCPD released the Megan Mohn body cams they killed again, in an eerily similar case. On August 14th, 2022 around 3PM, a man named Tim called 911 to report that “a guy just tried to run in and steal beer" and was "definitely a danger to himself and maybe to traffic around here". The man, Nykon Brandon, would be dead within the hour, smashed into the hot gravel, face down, until he became unresponsive. While the police who killed Mr. Brandon obviously carry the majority of the responsibility, without Tim’s 911 call Mr. Brandon would likely still be alive. “Tim” is almost certainly Fisher Brewing Co-Owner Tim Dwyer:
911 Dispatcher (~1:00): “What is your name?”
Caller: “My name is Tim”
911 Dispatcher: “And what is the name of your business?”
Caller: “Uh, Fisher Brewing”
– 8-14-2022 911 Call
Like with the Megan Mohn case, SLCPD released the body cams of the incident, this time after 12 days, on August 26, 2022. While identifying all of the officers in the nine body cams is not a trivial task, the identities of many of the officers was still easy to determine.
So why did local media not do even the bare minimum in terms of providing the facts in this case? Is it not relevant that this incident clearly violates an executive order that’s been in effect since fall of 2020 that requires that officers “not engage in aggressive behavior that escalates a situation”? Or that the “concerned” business owner who started this interaction might be playing a role in the gentrification of the area? How can a paper like the Salt Lake Tribune, which had over $13 million in revenue in 2021 and who publishes pieces on gentrification almost monthly, not be making such obvious connections?
At some point it becomes clear how connected these various entities, the police, gentrifying capitalists, and local journalists, are.
In 2022 the police budget was increased by a massive 24.7% ($20,606,540) to break the $100 million mark! It has since reached an eye-watering $110,976,812… These increases cannot continue without increased city revenue, which cannot happen without enabling and supporting gentrification.
The connections to local “journalists” is also obvious. A look at the Salt Lake Tribune’s supporters page reveals a number of major sponsorships from “pro-development” (read: pro-gentrification) entities such as The Downtown Alliance and Zions Bank. Even worse their coverage itself regularly cites gentrification apologists like Building Salt Lake.
An abolitionist effort done without understanding these connections will fall short. If we truly want to abolish the police, we must investigate and understand our local contexts, and unfortunately it is clear that local for-profit journalism, or even supposedly not money obsessed institutions like the 501(c)3 labeled Salt Lake Tribune, will not help us in developing that understanding. For CopDB, this is where we feel we can help. By providing community-sourced, easy to navigate, searchable, and permanent information on the police, we believe that the connections between distinct police actions and the broader context will be easier for the community to access and that this information will be strategically useful. Having CopDB support organizing that is attempting to directly build popular power is, in our view, especially important as these are not only the places that must be strongest in order for the abolitionist movement to succeed, but because of that, they are also among the places where police oppression is most frequent. Organizers in these spaces are well aware of this…