A significant majority of Utahns support a wide array of police reforms ranging from prohibiting no-knock warrants to utilizing independent civilian review boards to investigate complaints against officers, according to a recent survey.

In the survey, which was commissioned by the Libertas Institute, a Lehi-based Libertarian think tank, and conducted by Public Policy Polling on July 1 and July 2, 1,140 Utah voters were asked a series of questions about law enforcement and criminal justice.

One of the questions was whether police officers “should be required to wear a body camera and be prohibited from turning it off in situations where force might be used, or has been used, against another person,” which 75% of those surveyed said they “strongly agree(d)” with and 16% said they “somewhat agree(d)" with.

Only 2% said they “strongly disagree(d)” that officers should be required to wear body cameras in such situations, and 5% said they “somewhat disagree(d).”

Similarly, 85% of respondents said they agreed that “a police officer who disables or fails to turn on their body camera should be disciplined” while 11% said they disagreed.

An even greater portion of Utahns surveyed, 9 out of 10, said they believe police officers “who have been proven to use excessive force against an individual should be subject to mandatory suspension or termination of their police certification.” Only 8% disagreed with that statement.

Should police officers who witness another officer’s misconduct or use of excessive force be required to file a report about it? Ninety-four percent of Utahns surveyed said they believe so and only 3% said they didn’t.

When it comes to investigating complaints of excessive force or other forms of misconduct by police officers, three-quarters of Utahns surveyed said law enforcement agencies should utilize independent civilian review boards. Meanwhile, 20% of respondents said they disagreed.

Two civilian review boards already exist in Utah: the Police Civilian Review Board in Salt Lake City and the Professional Standards Review Board in West Valley City.

When asked whether Utah police “should not be able to use no-knock warrants, which allow police to forcibly enter a person’s home, unless there is an imminent threat to someone’s life,” 73% of respondents said they agreed while 21% said they disagreed.

A smaller majority of Utahns, 60%, said they agreed that rather than "having police officers present on K-12 school campuses to deal with discipline issues and petty offenses, schools should instead call local law enforcement as needed to deal with actual crime,” while one-third said they disagreed.

The survey results, which were released by the Libertas Institute on July 13, come weeks after protests in Provo, Salt Lake City, Ogden and throughout the United States over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed after a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer knelt on his back for nearly 9 minutes.

On June 18, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill to ban police officers from using or being trained to use knee-on-neck chokeholds, one of a number of reform efforts called for by protesters and criminal justice reform advocates.

The survey asked whether Utahns agreed that “people of color are disproportionately negatively affected by the criminal justice system in Utah." Forty-eight percent of respondents said they did and 42% said they didn’t; 11% said they weren’t sure.

Libertas Institute staff made a number of observations about the survey results, including that “even Republicans, white voters, and seniors … agree” with the majority of police reform efforts addressed in the survey.

“Even a majority of those who strongly disagree with the idea that the criminal justice system disproportionately affects people of color agree that no-knock warrants shouldn’t be used, use of excessive force should be punished, misconduct should be reported by other officers, body cameras should be a requirement and discipline carried out if they are disabled,” Libertas Institute staff wrote in a July 13 blog post.

The survey was conducted by landline and cell phone and has a 2.9% margin of error, according to the Libertas Institute. The full results and methodology can be viewed at http://libertasutah.org.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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