Citizen advisory board begins reviewing TVPD use-of-force and vehicle pursuit casesOct 01, 2022 08:51PM ● By Carl Fauver
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
If you’ve lapped the sun 50 times or more, you likely remember these somewhat haunting – and completely “stalkery” – song lyrics:
Every breath you take…
Every move you make…
Every bond you break…
Every step you take…
I'll be watching you.
Billboard ranked “I’ll be Watching You” the number one song of 1983. And fittingly – for this story, anyway – the group that gave it to us was “The Police.”
The new 5-member Taylorsville Citizen Advisory Board won’t be watching every breath, move or step taken by Taylorsville City Police Officers. But the 4-man, 1-woman CAB has now officially begun scrutinizing every officer’s move when it involves use-of-force, vehicle pursuits or allegations of misconduct.
In keeping with the city’s pledge to make transparency a top priority of the police department it formed 15 months ago, last spring Mayor Kristie Overson selected the five CAB members. Since then, Dan Armstrong, Randy Freestone, John Lefavor, Dean Paynter and Lynette Wendel have undergone months of thorough training to prepare them for the case details they have now begun to review each month.
“I am really excited for then to begin reviewing cases,” Overson said. “They are top-notch individuals – and I know they have been very well trained. I am pleased to see them get to work.”
The Citizen Advisory Board’s first two meetings – to actually review case specifics – were held Aug. 18 and Sept. 20. Named the group’s chairman, Dean Paynter conducted the sessions.
“I think the first meeting went very well – we had quite a caseload,” Paynter said. “I think we were efficient, but also very thorough. The meeting ran about four hours to review 19 incidents. We had body camera footage for all of them. It became evident as I watched, it is very intense when police officers knock on a (house) door and it’s not answered. You just don’t know what’s going to happen when those inside finally open the door.”
During their monthly meetings, CAB members review case specifics for every TVPD incident in which a gun or taser is fired, a baton is used or pepper spray is deployed. Their charge is also to review cases involving high-speed vehicle pursuits or whenever a police dog makes contact with a suspect. Additionally, they will scrutinize allegations of officer misconduct.
“I think our first official meeting went very well,” Randy Freestone added. “The presentations were thorough. I think Sergeant Hill did a good job training us.”
As the TVPD sergeant over internal affairs, Jake Hill is the official liaison between his department and the CAB. His duty with the board now is to gather and present the appropriate case files to the five members each month. But ahead of these monthly meetings, he was also the one coordinating their training.
“We trained board members on our use-of-force policies and procedures,” Hill said. “I also took them to our driving range to teach them and demonstrate our vehicle pursuit policies. I have been very impressed with the group. They come from all walks of life. I think they appreciate the trust the mayor has put in them. It seems like they all want to do a good job. They didn’t rush through anything (during their first case review meeting). They have respect and pride in wanting to do a good job.”
For the record, the CAB did not flag any of the 19 cases they reviewed as having involved questionable behavior on the part of the responding officer(s). In the future, if the board does observe police behavior they deem questionable, they are expected to make potential disciplinary “recommendations.” Final decisions regarding possible reprimands, suspensions or terminations remain in the hands of Taylorsville Police Chief Brady Cottam.
“The cases we reviewed in August were all pretty benign; no shootings; the worst was the use of pepper spray,” CAB member (and former Taylorsville City Councilman) Dan Armstrong said. “Our officers are really good – real pros. They do so much extensive training. They know when to quit (vehicle) chases. They can call out a police helicopter very quickly if they need to. The first meeting was a very good learning experience for all of us. Our officers are very impressive. I’d hate to be a criminal.”
CAB member John Lefavor also left that first board meeting impressed with TVPD police officers.
“The thing that stuck with me – after reviewing all the use of force cases – is the restraint our officers use,” he said. “I am amazed – with the individual circumstances and problems they are dealing with – they are able to avoid using excessive force so successfully. It is a credit to their training and their compassion. I was really pleased.”
The lone female on the 5-member CAB – City Planning Commission member Lynette Wendel – also felt well prepared for the group’s first case review meeting.
“Sgt. Hill did such a fabulous job preparing us – and preparing the cases for our review,” she said. “He made sure we had all the information we needed. It was very well organized. It was clear the police department is taking this (board and its duties) very seriously. The meeting went very well.”
All five CAB members also expressed an appreciation for all of the body camera footage available for review. Hill said that was no accident – and should be expected for all of the board’s future meetings.
“All of our patrol officers wear body cameras; our department owns 45 of them,” Hill concluded. “Our police cars do not have dash board cameras (for budgetary reasons). But when officers are involved in pursuits, our policy requires them to activate their body cameras. They don’t show through the car windshield very well. But you can hear all the police radio traffic through them.”
Hill added, the officers’ tasers are also synchronized with their body cameras. Whenever one officer pulls their taser from its holster, the action automatically turns on body cameras for all of the TVPD police officers responding to the incident.Based on use of force and pursuit statistics compiled by TVPD for its first 15 months of operation, the Citizen Advisory Board is expected to review 10 to 20 cases each month. At their Sept. 20