Our View: Council protest appropriate

Saturday , January 12, 2013 - 5:25 PM

Editorial Board

Citizens who gathered at an Ogden City Council meeting on Tuesday night to protest the police department’s handling of a botched arrest warrant deserve both appreciation for their public spirit and their efforts to call attention to the need to review law enforcement procedures.

At the meeting, Ogden couple Eric and Melanie Hill joined the protest. The Hills, along with their two children, were mistakenly served with an arrest warrant at their home at 2 a.m. Eric Hill was handcuffed before the mistake was realized. To Ogden city’s credit, Mayor Mike Caldwell has initiated an internal investigation and has not ruled out further investigations if needed. We maintain that an independent investigation into what occurred on Dec. 20 has a better opportunity to help resolve concerns over what occurred.

We hope that the Hill family incident can be a catalyst toward a re-evaluation of how local law enforcement handles its duties, particularly concerning raids and late-night police procedures. Eric and Melanie Hill were thrust out of sleep before dawn by loud banging at their door. The Hills are a law-abiding family and pose no threat to the community. They do not expect law enforcement to be pounding on their doors and shouting in a threatening manner. We understand completely why Eric Hill answered his door at 2 a.m. wielding a baseball bat. What parent in that type of situation who loves his or her children would not take that precaution? What parent in that situation would not be angry at what their children had to deal with?

It’s very clear that middle-of-the-night arrest warrant servings by armed officers need to be reconsidered. The officers were looking for a military deserter, for heaven’s sakes, not a dangerous criminal.

Besides the Hill incident, there have been — as protesters noted — local incidents where the procedures of law enforcement need to be re-evaluated. These include the killing of a golf club-wielding man in Roy during a night raid by Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force agents and last year’s raid in Ogden where Officer Jared Francom was killed and several Ogden officers injured by accused killer Matthew Stewart.

These incidents have created a perception that in some cases, calling in the police might exacerbate violence rather than keep the peace. Initiating measures that diminish that concern is a top priority.

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