Utah governor calls for statewide ban on police choke holds

A protester looks on during a Black Lives Matter protest Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Salt Lake City. With loud chants of "No justice, no peace" and "Black lives matter," a couple of thousand people rallied on Washington Square in downtown Salt Lake City Wednesday morning calling for an end to police brutality. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert enacted a ban Thursday on choke holds for all state-level law enforcement officers and called on all other police agencies in the state to follow suit — his first major police reform since George Floyd’s killing by a police officer in Minneapolis set off global protests.

The Republican governor also said he will implement implicit bias training for all state government officials, and tasked his public safety commissioner with identifying other ways to decrease fear and anger of police in “under represented” communities and increase police transparency with a report due by July 1.

Nobody should have fear of our police,” Herbert said. “It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is, your ethnicity, your background. Everybody is equal under the law and they should look at police and law enforcement, the men and women of law enforcement, as friends.”

Herbert’s announcement comes one day after Salt Lake City police banned choke holds, following many other cities around the country including Phoenix and Denver. His ban applies to officers with the Utah Department of Public Safety and Department of Corrections.

Floyd, a black man, pleaded for air and later died after a white police officer in Minnesota pressed his knee into his neck. Thousands of people have participated in daily protests in Salt Lake City over the last two weeks protesting police brutality and calling for racial justice. Some protesters want police agencies to have less funding.

Speaking generally about Floyd’s death and the police officer’s actions, Herbert said that “abuse of power is never acceptable.”

“When we witness these kinds of egregious actions, examples of cruelty from those who in fact are sworn to protect and to serve, it adds to the divisiveness that we should not want nor desire to have in our society,” Herbert said. “We can’t ignore it, we can’t say it’s OK. We certainly can’t say all is well in our society.”

Herbert also said he will elevate the directors of the state’s Division of Multicultural Affairs, Nubia Peña, and the state’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Dustin Jansen, so that they report directly to him and have a seat at leadership meetings.

Herbert is in his final months as governor after serving since 2009. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is one of four Republicans vying for the position along with former Russian ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., former state House Speaker Greg Hughes and former state GOP chair Thomas Wright. The winner of the June 30 primary will be the overwhelming favorite against a Democratic challenger in the November elections in the heavily GOP state.

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