Thursday, October 20, 2011

SLCPD Chief on Civil Liberties

video by MICHAEL ORTON for ImageProviders 
©2011 – All Rights Reserved


Earlier this year, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank was asked about the training his officers receive to handle civil demonstrations organized on the streets by groups like PrideInUtah, PeacefulUprising and OccupySLC. Owing to the fact that these protests and rallies have happened with little, if any, incident or mishap and no violent clashes with law enforcement authorities, Salt Lake City's police department can come under some scrutiny for effectively doing things right. In recent days, authorities in Boston and Detroit have had far less success in keeping public protests in their cities calm.

During the July 26, 2011 sentencing of environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, Chief Burbank was asked how his department maintains a professional demeanor so that Salt Lake City can be a safe showplace for conventions and tourists, including the worldwide conference from the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, (the mainstream Mormons). His response about ensuring citizens' civil liberties likely brands Utah's capitol city as most respectful to those who have something to say in a large, public forum. Burbank explained that "[My officers] go out and approach things from: 'what is a fair and balanced approach for everybody?'" VIDEO:

Police Chief CHRIS BURBANK on July 26, 2011 on civil liberties in Salt Lake City 
Camera and interview by MICHAEL ORTON for ImageProviders ©2011 - All Rights Reserved

In July, when DeChristopher's sympathizers blocked traffic and commuter rail with a peaceful but disruptive sit-in mid-street, observers witnessed arrests being made in a careful, deliberate and compassionate manner where the use of force mirrored the cooperation of the violators. Those wanting to be arrested as a sign of their commitment to civil disobedience protest were informed by the Chief himself that their failure to disperse from the street would indeed result in their arrest. They were then told what they could expect during their booking and eventual release, absent any other outstanding wants and warrants. In contrast, uniformed Homeland Security agents at the Moss Federal Courthouse that evening were visibly offended and angered by the protestors' tactics, but they were not involved as order in the streets was the responsibility of municipal, not federal, law enforcement officers. Cooler heads prevailed all around, even though many rail commuters were verbally upset about being late for dinner and responsibilities at home.

During the local OccupyWallStreet protests in October, a continuing presence of dissident gatherings in Pioneer Park was accommodated, and protestors enjoyed cordial relations with uniformed SLCPD officers who were present again to preserve order and public safety for all. An increasingly effective tactic used across the nation is the simple yet effective deployment of able female officers and during last Friday's meeting between protestors and local public officials, SLCPD Sergeant Jenn Diederich was the personal and congenial face supervising public safety in Pioneer Park. "We haven't really needed any additional resources here, and we attempt to be both visible and accessible to respond appropriately and in a professional manner," Diederich said. Designated smoking area signs made by the protestors were clearly visible and no illicit drug usage was apparent to those who came to the historic park to witness the Occupy movement firsthand. As of Day 11, OccupySLC showed little signs of abating, though relocation is planned by organizers and city authorities in an attempt to maintain the peace amongst dissidents and an ongoing census of the city's homeless.


October 20, 2011 – 1600 local time

The OccupySLC people received word that their permits would continue to be renewed on a daily basis, allowing them to remain at Pioneer Park as before. The Farmer's Market, organized by Salt Lake City's Downtown Alliance, has been a favorite of inner city residents on Saturdays at the same location. It will also continue to operate through the end of October, as planned.

OccupySLC's Facebook page has grown to over 8700 followers.

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