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Deadly police force has claimed more lives in Utah than nearly any other type of homicide in the last five years, according to an analysis by the Salt Lake Tribune.
Law enforcement officers killed 45 people in Utah between 2010 and October 2014, accounting for 15 percent of all homicides during that period. That made police use of force the second most common type of homicide in the state after intimate partner violence, according to the paper’s review of more than 300 homicides.
"The numbers reflect that there could be an issue and it’s going to take a deeper understanding of these shootings," said Chris Gebhardt, a former police officer in both Washington, D.C. and Utah.
Utah prosecutors have deemed all but one of the killings justified, the Tribune found. The single shooting deemed unjustified was the 2012 death of a young woman by a West Valley City officer. Last month, a judge dismissed criminal charges against the officer after finding no evidence that the “conduct was not legally justifiable.”
Ian Adams, spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, defended officers’ actions to the Tribune.
"Police are trained and expected to react to deadly threats. As many deadly threats emerge is the exact amount of times police will respond," said Adams, who this summer shot and wounded a man who pointed a fake gun at him. "The onus is on the person being arrested to stop trying to assault and kill police officers and the innocent public.”
While Utah has one of the nation’s lowest violent crime rates, the Tribune examination of FBI statistics found Utah had the nation’s 10th highest rate of reported assaults on police officers.