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ACLU To Keep An Eye On Bolstered Rio Grande Policing

Dennis Stock

As Utah officials guarantee more police surveillance in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande District, some groups are worried about potential civil rights violations from Utah law enforcement.

While State and local government has promised to increase law enforcement within Salt Lake’s Rio Grande Area, the details of that promise remain a work in progress.

“I don’t know that we can say, ‘Here is the exact amount of money.’ I think we’ll do what we need to do to get to get to where we’ve eliminated the criminal element,” said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert at a press conference. “So, That’s a work in progress, again I’m setting kind of a goal of a year to have that done and completed I think we can, in fact, have significant improvement. What the end cost of what that’s going to be a bit speculative right now.”

Former Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder's 21-point plan, released in March, has received endorsements from several groups, including the Pioneer Park Coalition, a group of land and business owners, but drew flak from the community for its aggressive approach.

Early proposals by the state Legislature made in July are similar to the 21-point plan. During the current plan’s unfolding the state has re-iterated its commitment to protecting the rights of individuals in Rio Grande, and have consulted the ACLU of Utah to help in its formation.

Marina Lowe, Legislative and Policy counsel with the ACLU of Utah, said stronger policing should not be the state’s only approach.

“Our concern, of course, is that simply looking at this from a criminal justice angle is not going to solve the problem and may, in fact, run into legal issues,” she said. “It’s really important to also make sure that we necessary resources available to people who need help. We see the issue of homelessness as something much broader and global.”

Lowe stated that, if such a breach in civil rights were to occur, the ACLU would take legal action.