Dealing with the Police: A Conversation with Mayor Troy Walker
Dealing with the Police: A Conversation with Mayor Troy Walker
Troy Walker: Mayor of Draper
I met Troy through my late wife, Becky. There was no question that she liked Mayor Troy Walker. She always felt like you were willing to stir things up and that you were not about the status quo. You have no problem speaking your mind and being straightforward with people and she really appreciated that.
Police in the News
I asked Troy to come on this morning to talk a little bit about the challenges we’re having with people dying in police custody. Of course, it’s created a lot of protests and riots and a lot of discussion on racial equality.
There are all sorts of discussions that have emerged after a person in police custody in Minneapolis died after having a police officer kneel on their neck for eight and a half minutes. So, George Floyd has become a household name around the country as a result.
You’ve got an interesting perspective because here you are, you’re a mayor, you’re a defender of the police. Then in your professional life you work on the side of defendants who are coming up against various charges that they have against them.
You have got this wealth of experience, Troy, and as we’ve had conversations, I just thought, I’ve got to have you on this podcast because you just have insights that other people may not have.
Mayor Walker shared, “I’ve spent a little bit of time as a prosecutor under Laura Miller when she was the district attorney. I spent three years prosecuting. I did it part-time and I did misdemeanor crimes. I prosecuted anything from a class C to a class A and I did that for a while.”
“I’ve been a defense attorney for 22 of my 25 years of practice, and so I see the world from three perspectives. I’ve been a prosecutor, I’ve been a defense attorney, and I’ve been a public official, so I think my perspective is unique.”
Need for Law Enforcement:
Mayor Walker was quick to clarify his stance on law enforcement:
“First of all, the one thing I do want to say at the beginning is I support law enforcement. You know, you are a fool in my estimation to think we can get by in society without police. We cannot. We have to have them.”
“I think it’s a better model to have police, and by and large, when you look at police departments across the country, you’ve going to find that a high percentage, probably about 99 percent, of the officers are good, solid people that do their job. There’s bad apples, but they’re not a lot of them.”
9/11 and Emergency Response Personnel:
So, I find it interesting that today’s September 11, and if we look back to 2001 and the Twin Towers, we see that our policemen and our firemen were our first responders that day. They were into those towers and many died that day. Why? Because they signed up for a job and they were doing their job that morning. So, if you want to know the value of our police force, look no further than the Twin Towers to see the value of having them on the job looking after the citizens of whatever city they’re in.
Mayor Walker concurred with my view of emergency personnel:
“Well, you know, if you get into a situation where you’ve got some violent act being perpetrated on you or something like that, these guys will come. I mean these men and women will come and they’re not afraid to come. They’ll do the job. They’re amazing people.”
Police officers are special people as Mayor Walker pointed out: “I think to want to be a police officer, you’ve got to want to help people, be a people-oriented person. There are a few that want to do it because they get a lot of authority. However, I think that by and large the officers are all about trying to do a good job. They will run into a building. It’s like firemen. They run to fires. They don’t run away. They come into the fire to get you. That’s an amazing mentality.”
I agree. That’s what public safety people do. That is their job, and God bless them. I mean it’s not a job that I could do. It’s not a job that many people could do, but they do it.
When You Come In Contact with Police
Troy said, “First of all, there’s more to talk about than you could do in one podcast for sure. And look, my opinions are mine and I’m not saying I’m an expert on what I think.”
“People say they’re targeted by the police. In all honesty, there’s two times you come in contact with the police.
- You come in contact with the police when they’re out looking for people breaking the law, which they do often. The Highway Patrol, that’s all they do. They just sit on the highway looking for you to violate the law. So they’re targeting everybody that’s violating the law. I always tell people don’t feel like they just target people of minority groups. They target everybody. That’s their job. They go out and arrest people.
- The other time is when you’ve called them or someone else has called them to come to something that’s going on.”
Power and Police
Mayor Walker talked about the issue with power and police:
“The police have a huge amount of power. You think about a 21-year-old man or woman who gets out of the police academy, they have full authority to stop you in your tracks, to question you, and then the ability to incarcerate you.. They have all of that power. They get the deference when they stop you and that’s an issue.”
“When a police officer stops you, they have this constitutional authority. They’ve stopped you. At that point in time, they might violate your Constitutional rights. They just might, and if they do, we can sort that out in a courtroom. There’s absolutely no reason to cause any kind of grief to an officer, in my opinion, because they’re just trying to do their job and we want them to do their job.”
Your Rights with Police
As far as how to interact with the police, Mayor Walker had some specific advice:
“So, I always tell people- this is my free legal advice, Stan, and I’ve told it to you. Whatever the police ask you to do, you politely decline.
“May I search your vehicle?”
“No officer, you may not.”
“Now, whatever the police order you to do, I advise you to do it.
To give you an example:
‘Get out of your vehicle, Mr. Lockhart.’
‘Put your hands on your head.’
Do it. It’s an order. It’s a lawful order. Do it. Now, if it’s an illawful order, we’ll figure that out later in the courtroom, but I think the interaction we have with the police ought to be like that.”
“You don’t have to talk to the police. You have the fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. If more people invoked it in a respectful manner, that would cause a change.”
Culture’s Impact on Police
Mayor Walker discussed the impact of culture on the police and our view of them:
“You would see things change a little bit if some of the problems we have in our culture could change. What are the number one TV shows in America? They’re cop shows, right? We all love to watch Cops and what happens in every cop show? They’ll bend the law a little. They’ll enter a place without a warrant or they’ll do whatever and we all love them. We love the door kicking down, we love The Rock when he’s going at everybody.”
“So, you have this whole society that watches these shows and they love it. Then you wonder why cops are acting the way they do. Until you actually interact with the police, you don’t really know what they do.”
Walker said that the police have a job to do and they will do it. It is not always the nicest way either:
“It always gets me. You’ll get these nice Mormon families and little Johnny gets in trouble, and they’re like I can’t believe the officer was like that. I can’t believe that police officer treated me that way.”
“I’m like well, that’s what they do. Their job is to arrest you. Their job is to investigate crime. The police can lie to you- it’s one of the few government entities where the officer can be dishonest in his investigation with you. He can tell you something that’s not true if he’s investigating something. He’s got that authority.”
Confession Culture and How It Impacts Interactions with Police
Mayor Walker discussed the impact of confession culture on how people talk to the police:
“In Utah we have this culture where we like to confess everything. We like to own or take responsibility for everything we do. It is not uncommon for you to go into your Bishop, who might be an insurance agent, and you’ll tell your sins. So, people get accustomed to just thinking if I confess, if I talk, it will all work out. That works with Jesus, but it doesn’t work with the law. You should always exercise your Constitutional rights. Politely, of course.”
When You Tell the Officer Everything, You Don’t Have a Case
Mayor Walker shared a story of someone who told the officers everything, even though he advised against it:
“I had a case some years ago. I got a phone call from a guy who had gotten involved in a domestic dispute. He told me a story about how he and his brother got into some fight.
I said, ‘Okay, what’s happening?’
And he said, ‘Well, police are on their way. What do I do?’
And I said, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen. The police are going to get there and they’re going to investigate it and somebody’s going to get arrested. It’s just how it’s going to be.’
And so, he’s like, ‘What do I do?’
And I said, ‘Well, what I would do is give them your driver’s license. Be very polite. Don’t say another damn thing. That’s it.’
And he said, ‘What will happen?’
And I said, ‘Well, they’ll arrest you.’
And he’s like, ‘I don’t want to get arrested.’
I said, ‘Well, they’re going to arrest you. They’re coming to arrest you. You just as well- get arrested without saying anything.’
He says to me, ‘Hey, my wife says I should explain it.’
And I said to him, ‘Hey, is your wife a lawyer? Because if she is, why are you calling me?’
And so, he said, ‘No, my wife’s not a lawyer.’
I asked, ‘What does your wife do?’
He said, ‘She’s a nurse.’
I said, ‘Well, don’t take legal advice from the nurse. I said don’t talk to the police. Don’t give them any information. Give them your license. Shut up, go over and sit by the police car and get in.’
He said, ‘Ugh.’
I said, ‘But don’t talk to them.’
So, I get back to golf and a couple hours later he calls me back.
He said, ‘It went great.’
I’m said, ‘ What do you mean it went great?’
He said, ‘I didn’t get arrested.’
I said, ‘Okay, what happened?’
He said, ‘Well, they just gave me a citation.’
I said, ‘You can read, right?’
And he said, ‘Well, yeah.’
I said, ‘Okay, let’s read the citation together.’
And he reads the crime and it’s of course a class A misdemeanor.
I’m like, ‘Well yeah, they didn’t arrest you, but you’re now charged with a class A misdemeanor. Did you talk to the police?’
He said, ‘Well, yeah. I explained myself and the officer was really cool. He was really friendly.’
I said, ‘ Of course he is. That’s what his job is. So you gave him statements?’
He said, ‘ Oh yeah.’
I was like, ‘Great. Thank you. I’ve got nothing to work with.’
“ I raised my fee on this guy, quite frankly. So when we got to court, it ended up that this guy’s brother lived in Canada. The Salt Lake County district attorney’s office is not going to fly a guy in from Canada to testify in a misdemeanor case, but they didn’t need to because my client gave them all the statements. So, it was one that I could have got dismissed.”
“I just think people- we’re too willing to just cough up information. We think that the police are our friends. I don’t mean- when I say the police are not your friends, I don’t mean they’re not good people. I don’t mean they’re not doing a very important job, but their job is not to be your friend.”
“Their job is to arrest you. Their job is to investigate crime and represent the people in charging people- gathering evidence and giving it to the district attorney to make charges. I mean police departments report annually their number of arrests, we keep statistics in this country on everything. Look, that’s what they do. They don’t come to your house to say hello and shake hands with everyone. If you’ve called them, they’re coming. They assume there’s a crime being committed because they got dispatched there, and that’s their job. So, you’ve got to think of it that way.”
“We want law. We want order. Everyone wants law and order until they’re the one getting law and ordered and then it’s a different perspective.”
George Floyd and Perception of Police Officers:
We need to see things as they really- one of the problems with this is we look at George Floyd and we start assuming all police are like the officer that held George Floyd down and wouldn’t let him breathe. And that’s just not true. That is not what all police do. That is one instance that is on video and shown everywhere in the country, but that’s not it.
Seeing the world as it truly is the most important thing we can do to solve problems. So, when we have this skewed perspective that the problem is all police do this, we’re never going to come up with answers if we hold to that position.
On the other hand, to be Pollyanna-ish and to think that there’s no challenges at all with police and we need to defend them at all costs, no matter what, is an equally hard place to be because we don’t see the world as it really is. So, knowing that the vast majority of our police are doing exactly what we want them to do and that there is the very, very small minority that are kind of on a power trip and may not respond the way that they should, what are the answers?
Ideas for Improving Police
Mayor Walker shared his ideas for improving the police:
“I have ideas but we are talking about this from 50 thousand feet up. I by no means have thought through exactly how you would deploy the concepts but I have ideas.”
- Learn to de-escalate
“The first thing that every police department needs to do is have better de-escalation training: better training for how to deal with people without immediately going to firearms and that kind of stuff. Now look, sometimes cops have got to put their hands on you. They just have to do it.”
“If you go into the prison and the corrections- if you really want to talk about officers who learn how to use their ability to talk to people, it’s a corrections officer. A corrections officer doesn’t have a firearm. They don’t have any weapons. They have to use their ability to talk to inmates, convicted felons they govern, and so those folks, they learn how to deal with it.”
“I went on a tour of the prison a couple months ago and I was so impressed with the sergeant in the corrections office. She was an awesome lady, and her entire life was about talking people down and dealing with people with her mouth and her words. She said the thing that she loved about that job was that she learned how to do that. She liked doing it. That’s what we need in law enforcement. There’s a lot of things you can do to better deal with people. Good police officers, they can talk you out of situations. They can deescalate things, so training is one.”
- Put Cameras on Officers
Mayor Walker talked about the importance of having officers use cameras:
“We put cameras on our police department in Draper- it’s been a little bit more than a decade ago. We were one of the first ,if not the first city to deploy them completely. We have a small department, but those cameras, they were instrumental in changing.”
“Before the cameras, we had a lot of claims against our police, your officers did this. They were this way. They were rude. They were mean, they were over the top. They just caused a bunch of trouble. Well, when you get it on camera, you know what happened.”
“ I get these nice moms that would call me and say I can’t believe how your police officers treated my daughter. They’re out of control. I watch the video from the officer’s camera, and I’m like ‘Well, do you want to come in and see how little Suzy talked to this officer? You might be surprised.’”
And almost invariably the mom is like, “Oh. Gee.I had no idea. Yeah, you didn’t and that’s pretty over the top, don’t you think?” So, the cameras did more for our police, frankly, than anything else. They showed that our police were not abusing the public and they showed that our police were professional.”
“The camera makes everyone honest and puts everyone on their best behavior, so cameras were a big deal. They helped us a lot, dropped our claims from in the hundreds of thousands down to like 10 thousand. It was really amazing what it did.”
“Our policy is pretty strict. You get one or two instances where you don’t activate your camera and then if you consistently don’t activate the camera, then it’s an employment situation for you.
Insurance for Officers as a Solution
Another idea to help with police reform is the idea of having an insurance policy on officers:
“One concept I’ve batted around in my head has been this concept of insurance. So, each officer got a $100 thousand bond. The city pays the premium, but in order to maintain your insurance bond, you’ve got to have this kind of training this often.”
“ Then we look at your claims and if you get claims- and I’m not talking you just pay, I’m talking they’ve got to prove their claims., After a while, if you have an officer who gets a bunch of claims, just like if you get a bunch of claims on your insurance, you got to get another insurance company because they just say you’re a risk.”
“One of the problems with police officers is they get in these big labor unions like in the big cities where they’re unionized and even- not every big city. I think Salt Lake City has a union. The labor unions, they protect their employees. That’s one of their jobs. They protect the people that work there, so you know it’s hard to get rid of that officer.”
“I read some articles about George Floyd and over his years of service, 19 or so complaints, one or two a year. I don’t know what they were, but you can see that getting complaints over the years didn’t really do anything to him. He didn’t suffer any repercussions and I doubt it’s because the chief didn’t want to. I suspect it’s probably because the chief couldn’t because of the union contract. You need some kind of remedy.”
More Professional Level Police Officers
Another way to improve the situation could be to make police officers more of a professional level job with a higher level of education and training:
“Another thing is that I think we should have a higher paid police force with more professional level people. You look at the FBI: federal agencies, federal law enforcement agencies, they’re very strict about the fourth amendment. They don’t do stuff without warrants. They’re constantly aware of it on the federal level, but to be an FBI agent you have to have a bachelor’s degree. They have pretty rigorous hiring processes. It’s not as rigorous a process to get into a local police department as a federal agency, but the quality of people is, you know, requisite to pay, too.”
“I’m not for defunding the police in any way, shape, or form. I’m for better training, better, you know, more rigorous standards in hiring and getting higher quality people. The better people we have, the better the job is.”
Prison for Criminals
Another suggestion that Mayor Walker had was about who should be incarcerated. He shared the example of Lori Loughlin:
“I’m a Lori Loughlin fan. I like the Hallmark Channel. My wife makes me watch it. The US government’s going to send Lori Laughlin to prison. Not a long sentence but a prison sentence for trying to get her kids into college.”
“Okay? Now, was it wrong? Yeah. You know. Is it ridiculous? Yeah. All of that. Should she go to prison or should prison be for violent criminals and people that steal money?”
“This is my opinion of people who should go to prison: Violent criminals. You steal people’s retirement; you go to prison. Or if you’re just a habitual person that can’t seem to gain control of your life, like drunk drivers that can’t stop doing it, they ought to go.”
“We just have this put everyone in prison, incarcerate everyone for everything, arrest everyone for everything mentality. And then we’re mad when the police do it and we’re like well wait a minute.”
Need for Independent Prosecutors:
Another possible solution would be to ensure that prosecutors are not connected to the police department:
“I think prosecutors should be independent. I don’t think they should be married to the police departments and married to the officers. This integration between cops and prosecutors, I think it’s a problem. I know they have to work together. But what happens too often is that you get this melding where it is like they’re all on a team, and they’re not on a team.”
Mayor walked explained that they all have different roles:
“Cops arrest and investigate. Prosecutors prosecute. Judges sentence. Juries convict. We have these separations and we need to clear them up and make the lines bolder again. Prosecutors need to have the ability to be independent. And the police need to understand it and they need to deal with it. You’ve got the cops and the prosecutors and the judge, and they’re all sort of from the same fabric.”
Lack of Trust in Police
Everything that has happened has affected the public and led them to start to lose trust in the police:
“These are subtle realities that all of it added together has got us to the point where people don’t trust the police in a lot of cities. Now, I’m not saying that in my city. In my city, they trust our police. They like our police. Our police are doing a good job. Most cities have that. Some of these bigger cities, I mean Stan you said it, you can’t see the world how it isn’t. We’ve got people who don’t trust the system and how it’s working. We need to make some reforms. Now, we don’t need to do away with them. There’s issues that need to be addressed and how can you best address them? Training. A little bit of some accountability that’s real. That would go a long way.”
Another thing that we need to address is the issue with systemic racism. I just admire the men and women who are willing to go into public safety and to try to help us and defend us. Now, when those lights go on behind me, I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy, but almost always, I know what I’ve done to have those lights come on behind me, you know what I mean?
But I don’t get afraid when those lights come on. I’m told sometimes by some of my Black friends that they become afraid when those lights come on behind them. That’s not something that I’ve ever encountered. So, when I started hearing those stories, at first, I’m kind of like don’t you think you’re overstating it a little bit?
But the more I hear the stories, the more I realize that there are times that they do feel targeted. They do feel fearful in ways that I don’t feel. We’ve got to have a society where every person can get equally treated under the law, and anyways.
Need for Training to Address Systemic Racism
Mayor Walker knows that we need to address the issues of systemic racism:
“We need to have training, maybe a way to give some accountability, and you know, make officers aware of how people feel and what it’s like. The fact is, if you’re a Black guy, the reality of it is you’re going to get more interactions with the police than a white guy is. It’s just going to happen. You’re going to get them and your perspective, like you said at the beginning of this podcast, is different than ours. I mean, we’re middle aged white guys. “
“We’re normally not afraid when the police pull us over, but I’m telling you, a young Black man, he is, and he has a reason to be. They get treated differently. You get treated differently in stores. You get treated differently by people. I hear this systemic racism and I think to myself well, we all have our biases that we don’t want to admit to ourselves or maybe we do, but police are just like us. They come from the same community, so we all have to be aware.”
Cultural Diversity Board in Draper
In response to the recent events, Draper City is setting up a cultural diversity board. Mayor Walker explained:
“We’re setting up a cultural diversity board in Draper where we’re going to have a nine-member commission like our parks and trails commission. We’re going to start talking about race, LGBTQ issues, we’re going to start talking about loving people, and treating people with respect for their differences. I think we need it in our community.”
“I think we need it in all communities and we’re going to try our best to try and figure out a way to be more aware of things and be less judgmental as a community. “
Remember to Respect Police Officers
Mayor Walker’s closing message was to remember that police officers are human and to be sure to respect them:
“Again, I love our law enforcement for the work they do. I think we need to remember that they have a tough job, too, and there’s no reason to give them grief when they’re doing it. I always tell them when I speak to their banquets, you guys deal with people at their absolute worst. They’re not happy to see you. You’ve either pulled them over or you’re going to their house when their life’s going to hell, and it takes a unique kind of person.”
“Also, we need to remember that police officers are people too. That’s the thing that gets me. Police officers are humans. They get up. They have bad moods. They have spouses. They have bad days like everybody else, and you know, they get out there and they try to treat people with respect. They should get treated with respect.”
“I think you should respect the police, and I think if you treat people with respect, you’ll get respect back. I think any officer would tell you that.”
- Mayor Walker has a unique perspective. He has been a prosecutor, he has been a trial lawyer defending citizens, and he is a mayor. He says we cannot get by in society without police.
- To want to be a police officer, you have got to want to help people.
- When a police officer asks you a question, graciously decline. When a police officer commands you to do something, immediately comply.
- Always exercise your constitutional rights. Exercise your right to avoid self-incrimination, fifth amendment.
- The job of police is to investigate and make arrests.
- We have an adversarial criminal justice system and it works.
- Everyone wants law and order until they get law and ordered.
Suggestions to Improve Police:
1. Better de-escalation training and more rigorous standards for police
3. Use of body cameras
4. Modify governmental immunity where the poor performers will leave.
5. Personal liability and some remedy through a private insurance bond where the city has a premium that they pay for their police
7. Only incarcerate violent criminals and repeat offenders
8. Prosecutors should be independent. They shouldn’t be a part of a club with the police department.
9. Don’t defund the police.