Like many of you, I recently watched the body-camera footage of the shooting involving Salt Lake City SWAT, which ended the life of Delorean Pikyavit, on April 18th. These shootings are always tragic and deserve serious reflection and attention, with the goal of improving tactics and training, to ultimately reduce their occurrence.
I believe it is important for the community to know that several investigations are currently underway. In accordance with Utah law, the West Valley Police Department is investigating the shooting to determine if there is any criminal wrongdoing, the results of which will be forwarded to the District Attorney. The Salt Lake City Police Department has also begun an Internal Affairs investigation to ascertain if any Salt Lake City Police Department policies and procedures were violated. The City’s independent Civilian Review Board, comprised of residents of Salt Lake City, will also be conducting a probe into possible policy and procedure violations.
Last October, when I issued my Executive Order governing the release of police body-camera footage, it was my goal that this policy would bring needed transparency to assure the community that these situations are taken extremely seriously by Salt Lake City. I also issued the Executive Order with the strong belief that the community wanted accountability, and NOT the opportunity to villainize those involved or draw conclusions without all the facts.
As Mayor, I am not privy to the details of the current ongoing investigations. I have seen the video that was released, and while I will wait for all information before drawing a conclusion, I will say that what I saw is difficult to process and disheartening, because a life was lost.
Now is not the time to pass judgment on this one incident, but it is important for our entire community to reflect on the trends we are seeing in our City—not to indict but to learn. To reflect on the disheartening fact that even as new policies have been implemented, officer involved shootings have continued to occur at a fairly stable rate over the last decade.
It is personally disheartening to me that these incidents continue, even as I have made the implementation of diversity and de-escalation training a top priority. And I am dismayed, that over the last decade, a disproportionate majority of these shootings have involved people of color.
The Salt Lake City Police Department deserves great praise for the fact that overall use of force is down 44% this year. This drop was seen after the primary rounds of new bias training conducted in 2017. However, we cannot ignore the fact that while trending down, use of force between our police officers and the African American and Native American communities remains disproportionately high.
After each of these incidents, I am left to ask, what needs to be done to shift this dynamic? What needs to be done to ensure the values important to this community are embraced and respected throughout the ranks of the police department?
While I have confidence that the ongoing investigations will clarify the details surrounding this shooting, my deeper concern lies in these questions and the greater societal issues we are facing both as a City and a country.
Right now, I don’t have the answers to these questions, in fact, I haven’t met a Mayor who does. What I can promise is that my team and I will work as hard as ever to address the systemic issues which contribute to and compound these incidents. From addressing homelessness in a new way to creating new housing opportunities to developing economic equity in our City—we remain committed to building a City for everyone.
I will also continue to push for serious reform within our police department, while building upon their daily successes, so they can continue to be the best trained and most community-oriented law enforcement agency in the nation.
I am writing this message, not to pass judgement or comment on the facts of this incident as we know them today, but to hopefully draw attention to the greater issues we face as a community. These are issues which can only be solved by working together. As a City, this work must begin with a commitment to transparency and end on a united front.
– Mayor Jackie Biskupski
To view SLCPD’s footage release press conference visit (Warning: graphic footage): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqs13omgW5A