OGDEN — When Black Lives Matter started taking shape in Salt Lake City, clamoring from some for a chapter in Ogden surged, according to Lex Scott, co-founder of the activist group.
“The call for us to come to Ogden was just intense,” she said.
So the group started taking root — with an initial meeting late last month — and now, Scott and others involved are taking it a step further, forming a separate group to focus on their concerns about racial profiling and mistreatment of the public at the hands of police. She and other members of the new organization, the Ogden Community Activist Group, or CAG, met privately on Monday with Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt and other police reps, with more meetings planned.
“I have too many people reaching out to me complaining about police brutality and problems by police in Ogden,” said Scott, who helped form a similar watchdog group in Salt Lake City two years ago to work with police there.
Ogden police already have mechanisms in place to address many of the issues CAG group members brought up, including safeguards to prevent profiling, said police spokeswoman Capt. Danielle Croyle. She doesn’t think there are problems necessitating CAG, with profiling or in other areas, and she noted the varied training programs officers must routinely complete.
“If there’s anything that does come to light… we do address it,” she said.
But the department welcomes and encourages input from community groups, and she confirmed the willingness of Watt to meet again with CAG members.
About 15 people representing CAG took part in Monday’s meeting, held at the Ogden Police Department. CAG reps put many questions and requests to police. Authorities, meanwhile, agreed to at least two things — to look into tweaking the way complaints are submitted online and to investigate the availability of data indicating the race and ethnicity of people pulled over for traffic stops. CAG officials want to make it easier for the public to submit anonymous complaints online and seek the data on traffic stops to get a sense of whether police here engage in profiling.
Other general areas of import for CAG include assuring that officers get training on how to defuse tense situations, use of body cameras by police officers and hiring of racially and ethnically diverse police officers. “You name it, we try to reform the police department,” Scott said.
Scott would also like the department here to implement a civilian review board tasked with investigating charges from the public of police abuse, but Croyle said other administrative procedures already exist for such instances. Indeed, Croyle said many of the issues brought up by CAG are addressed in existing police policies and protocols.
Scott offered up praise for the department on some fronts. She lauded the department’s efforts to recruit minority officers and use of mental health counselors on calls when deemed necessary.
“It’s not adversarial. It’s not me against the police,” Scott said.
Whatever the case, Scott also said she’s received critical reports, notably with regard to strict treatment, arrests even, of minority kids accused of misbehavior or wrongdoing in Ogden and Weber School District schools. With that in mind, CAG reps hope to meet with the department’s school resource officers in a future meeting.
“We need to make sure those kids are not being profiled and being sent directly from school to jail,” she said. Scott also hopes to form a CAG group in Provo.
Croyle described Monday’s meeting as positive. “Very cordial, very professional, very engaging,” she said.
Terra Cooper, a Syracuse woman active in the Ogden CAG and the Black Lives Matter movement in Utah, echoed that. “I was actually very impressed with the chief. He was actually very honest,” offering straightforward answers on what he would and would not be willing to do as police department head, Cooper said.