Skip to main content

The City Journals

How Draper is responding to the national conversation on policing

Jan 13, 2021 01:12PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Draper is a growing and changing city, moving forward into a future with modern-day challenges. 2020 was not only the year of the pandemic, but also one of movements toward racial equality and police reform. Those national issues have come home to Draper in the city’s efforts to move forward in the right direction. Two such examples are the newly established Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, and a training program for police that exceeds state requirements and trains on de-escalation when possible.

Police Chief John Eining said dispatchers received a call in August of a man with a gun, called in by a boy who was with the armed man. “Officer (Robert) Barlow was the first to arrive on the scene…he (Barlow) encountered a man in his garage who had a rifle and he (the suspect) had fired a few rounds into a car in the garage. There was a young boy hiding underneath the car at the time. As Officer Barlow was approaching, he ordered the man to drop the weapon. The man then turned and pointed the gun at Officer Barlow. It was alleged that he fired at Officer Barlow. At the time, Officer Barlow (a K-9 officer) had his dog out, so he didn’t return fire. He took cover. He didn’t send the dog because the boy was in close proximity. He ordered the man to drop the gun again. The man started running, took off across the street. Officer Barlow followed, ordered him to drop the gun again. This time he complied and he was taken into custody.”

Eining clarified that Officer Barlow didn’t deploy his dog because of the boy, explaining that the dog would have to determine which person (the armed man or the boy) he would go after. “You’d hope he picks the adult.” But Eining clarified that Officer Barlow could have fired his gun without endangering the boy because officers are trained to be exact in firing. “The firing a firearm, that’s not really endangering the child at all…there’s no reason why he couldn’t return fire, he just chose not to,” he said. 

The chief said Officer Barlow was first on the scene and alone in responding until the suspect was taken into custody, at which point multiple police had arrived. “It just happened so fast once he arrived that (he was alone the entire time)…it was all very fluid.”

Eining said his department does much more training than is required and they’ve trained on de-escalation for years. “We exceed the state standard of training by about three to four times what is required by Police Officers Standard & Training (POST). The requirement is 40 hours per year of ongoing training. We average about 160 hours. I went to a de-escalation training in New Orleans four years ago. We brought that class back and we’ve been teaching de-escalation every year since. Nothing that happened with George Floyd really changed anything we did because we’ve been doing this all along. Even with chokeholds, our policy didn’t allow us to use chokeholds,” he said. 

Eining said that the death of George Floyd did serve as a reminder of two things:

  1. Take people into custody as safely as possible
  2. Intervene and speak up if an officer sees another officer doing something wrong

The Chief is proud of his department’s community-focused policing efforts with programs such as Citizens Academy, Coffee with a Cop, Draper Safety Days and the Volunteers in Policing (VIPS) formed in 2020. “We really try to find ways to get out in the community and have discussions. The foundation of Coffee with a Cop is no agenda, we’re just there and invite people to tell us what they want to tell us,” he said. 

According to Eining, Draper was one of the first police departments in Utah to have body cameras, and the department has an internal review board. “Every use of force and every show of force is documented and reviewed by a committee. Our committee consists of a patrol lieutenant, a sergeant over a specialty (such as firearms), the sergeant over the police officer involved, and an individual from the police officer rank,” he said. 

What would the Chief want to convey about the men and women who make up his department? “I’d want people to know that there’s a human side to them. They’re no different when they’re off duty than everyone else. They have to make tough decisions very quickly and that’s not always easy to do,” he said. 

Eining said his department gets about 23,000 calls a year, but few involve an active shooter or a person using a weapon. “People don’t think things like this happen in Draper, and they don’t happen a lot, but they do happen,” he said. 

Mayor Troy Walker had the idea for a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board which was approved by the City Council in August. The city advertised for board members and received more than 30 applications. Walker and his assistant, Kellie Challburg, conducted interviews and chose a 12-member board.  “Most of our boards have nine members. We had such great response as well as so many qualified applicants, we decided to include more people,” Challburg said. 

The newly created board held their first meeting in early December via Zoom. Two-year appointments are Ron Williams, Stephanie Frohman, Melany Moras, Tara Bradshaw and Norm Ramos. One-year appointments are Faye Lao, Jill Rowe, Shivam Shah and Melarie Wheat. Alternate members are Han Kim, Erin Seibel and Gary Thompson. Challburg explained that terms are staggered so they’re not all up for renewal at the same time. “We…expect everyone to participate equally. If there is an issue that needs to be voted on, the members’ votes will take precedence, but an alternate can vote in the place of an absent member,” she said. 

The city selected Tara Bradshaw to serve as chair. Bradshaw is a mother of six, two of whom are daughters her family served as foster parents for and then adopted. She’s on the Executive Board of Raise the Future (formerly the Adoption Exchange of Utah) and helped organize “Running 2 Rebuild Lives for Refugees,” a Draper community awareness event and fun run held in 2016 and 2017. Funds from that event went to the AMAR organization to help refugees with healthcare, food, water and shelter, particularly in Iraq. 

“It was probably 2015 I found myself on my knees in my closet because I’d heard about the Yazidis in Iraq. They were being persecuted and slaughtered because of their religion, and I thought what can I do to help these people? Here I am in Draper with all these comforts, what can I do? If I was a refugee, I would want to know there was someone who cared to do something to help, so that’s why I started to try to find a way to raise money to help them,” she said. Bradshaw also serves on the advisory board for Mentors International, a Draper-based nonprofit that helps people all over the world with microloans to grow their businesses.

Following the board’s first meeting, Bradshaw said, “This is the most amazing group of people I think I’ve ever been in a meeting with. They’re diverse, they’re positive, they’re excited and they’ve already done so many great things in their lives. It’s going to be a powerful committee that will create change in the community.” 

Though the board’s first meeting was largely a chance for each appointee to introduce themselves, explain their background and their desire to help with issues of diversity and inclusion, they did discuss potential starting points. 

“Diversity and inclusion is so broad-based, so we’re going to try to laser focus on certain issues, maybe racial equality and accepting each other’s different beliefs, I think that would be our main focus, and then maybe grow from there,” Bradshaw said. She indicated depression was also mentioned as an issue of concern. “We want to make sure that everyone, no matter what economic background or what they believe or what their sexual orientation, that they’ll feel the community loves them and they have a safe place to go to get help,” she said. 

Bradshaw hopes this board will serve as an example for other communities. “I think this is going to be contagious. I think other people will see it and just want to replicate it.”