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Utah News

Fewer Utahns Dying At The Hands Of Police

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The number of civilians dying at the hands of police in Utah has diminished several years in a row even as the Justice Department has increased its initial estimate of arrest-related deaths. 

Nine people died during encounters with Utah police in 2016. That’s a slight decrease from 2015 and 2014, when 10 and 14 people died in police custody, respectively.

Federal law requires any state receiving money from the Department of Justice to report quarterly the number of deaths of those who were in police custody or in the process of being arrested.

Brandon Patterson, who writes for Mother Jones, said that federal arrest-related death disclosure laws have not always been strongly enforced.

"Essentially, the number was significantly lower than the new estimate because law enforcement agencies simply were ignoring the reporting mandate because there were no consequences under the old law," Patterson said.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has maintained an ARD reporting program since 2003. In a 12-month span ending in May of 2016, the Department of Justice estimates that 1,900 people died in police custody, or about 160 a month.

Patterson said that the ARD disclosure law could be abandoned under a Donald Trump White House.

"Both Trump and his pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, have been critical of the Department of Justice's involvement in local policing issues, and have indicated that they would sort of pull back on that under a Trump administration," he said.

The BJS totals come from a combination of media-reported deaths and deaths reported by local and state law enforcement agencies.