OGDEN — The Ogden City administration says it’s still listening to a group of police reform protesters who regularly attend City Council meetings.
But right now, administration officials say, no major policy change is on the horizon.
The protester group, which is led by Ogden area activist Malik Dayo, has asked the city to “radically” redefine when deadly force by a police officer is authorized, along with a host of other demands. For the past several months, members of the group have had a presence at every City Council meeting. They’ve handed out literature to City Council members and last week held up signs that read, “Police Reform Now!!!!”
“They gave us some things they wanted to see happen,” said Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson. “A lot of it was pretty general, but there were some (more specific) things in there, like creating a citizens’ review board, making videos (of police shootings) available after 48 hours.”
The group has also asked the city to require additional police deescalation training, mandate that police officers use alternatives to deadly force, including rubber bullets, bean bag guns, Tasers and pepper spray.
Johnson said the city has seriously listened to the protesters and carefully considered their arguments, but noted that some of the demands are simply unworkable. For example, Johnson said, releasing video of a police shooting within 48 hours is not the city’s call alone, because most times, the Weber County Attorney’s Office is involved. He said other factors, like redacting identities of innocent people who may be in the videos, play a role in the timing of a public release.
Members of the administration have researched citizen review boards around the country, Johnson said, but found they didn’t work well. Johnson said Salt Lake City once had a citizen review board, but it was quickly discontinued.
“It would be difficult to find enough citizens out there with the right expertise,” Johnson said. “You need experts on policing.”
The group first started attending council meetings and making public comment shortly after the Aug. 16 death of 26-year-old Ogden resident Jovany Mercado-Bedolla.
Mercado-Bedolla was shot by members of the Ogden Police Department after they were dispatched to a home near the 800 block of 32nd Street in Ogden.
In a press release, the department said Weber Area Dispatch received a call about a man (later identified as Mercado-Bedolla) with a knife who approached a group having a party in their yard. Mercado-Bedolla was also reported to be searching vehicles. According to the Police Department, he was shot after he “ignored repeated orders to drop the knife” and “began advancing on the officers with the knife in clear view.”
After medics arrived, Mercado-Bedolla was declared dead at the scene.
A since-released video of the shooting confirms the Police Department’s account of the incident.
During a Nov. 12 council meeting, Dayo said the group plans to continue to lobby for their platform.
“It’s going to be civil (and) legal,” Dayo said. “But we’re going to push the needle one way or another.”
Johnson said he’s not sure what will come of the weekly protests, but said citizens are always welcome to civilly discuss concerns. The city will continue to monitor the situation.
“We’re continuing to have internal discussions,” Johnson said.