West Valley City PD in Utah is under the gun to review hundreds of domestic violence and sex crime cases that may have been mishandled. It’s amazing what the FBI and the Salt Lake DA turn up once they pull back the carpet on one of these super dysfunctional and corrupt police departments. I wonder if the FBI could walk and chew gum at the same time and investigate other notoriously dangerous and corrupt police units like the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force (do you want me to beg, because I will beg—please please please!).
This new concern over DV cases comes after 128 or 110 (depends on who’s reporting it) criminal cases originating with West Valley’s Neighborhood Narcotics Unit were dismissed due to corruption.
All of this, of course, comes in the wake of the Danielle Willard shooting and an ever more vocal and organized movement in Utah to curb police violence, stemming from the police shootings of Matthew Stewart, Corey Kanosh, Kelly Simons and several more.
There are two important things about this ongoing FBI probe and DA Sim Gill continuing to put pressure on West Valley PD. People will praise Gill for being a crusading investigator who can’t turn a blind eye to corruption. West Valley is getting a slow-moving review and shakeup by higher ups, and that’s a really worthwhile thing. So yay. Great news.
But don’t forget what’s happened over the last 18 months. The police unions are a political wasp nest that election climbers like Sim Gill do not want to kick and stir up for no reason. Police are an intimidating political foe at the ballot box. However, the movement to curb police violence in Utah has made itself an even more menacing political wasp nest, such that Sim Gill had a dilemma. Should he piss off the cops? Or piss off everyone else? He chose to piss off the cops, because people got organized. And they’re still organized and they’re still pressing for more to be done about police in Utah, and so the Sim Gill/FBI show in West Valley will continue for awhile. I sure hope it spreads to other obviously corrupt police forces that deserve a kick in the teeth.
But what I have no hope for is that Sim Gill or the FBI have real solutions—no hope whatsoever. Sim Gill and the FBI’s solutions to West Valley’s problems are completely inadequate. Without changing the fundamental structure of police forces, their underlying logic and mission, without completely transforming the relationship between the state and people, we’ll end up with these same problems all over again, almost immediately. Sim Gill and the FBI will probably, eventually, decide that this new West Valley police chief is also inadequate, so he’ll probably get replaced—and maybe some people will cheer (probably). But the context around the “chief” and “cops” will not change as a result of the FBI and SIm Gill’s intervention—and like water added to a vase, the new chiefs and new cops inserted into the same old violent structure will take the form of their container. What the FBI and Sim Gill don’t and won’t do is smash the vase and start over.
The people have to smash the vase.
We need to completely re-envision how we structure, encourage and reinforce peaceful and functioning communities that aren’t under the gun of roaming thugs armed with an array of deadly weapons who terrorize communities with a legal monopoly on the legitimate use of deadly force, who are ill-suited, ill-trained and ill-equipped to solve the problems our communities are facing today. Sim Gill and the FBI aren’t interested in anything like that. So they aren’t going to solve the real problems, they aren’t going to uproot the weed, they’re just going to lop off the part of the weed above the surface—and this weed of law enforcement in the United States has a huge tap root, so it’ll grow back quickly in the same form.
So I get really excited that Sim Gill and the FBI are kicking West Valley in the teeth—it’s sweet to watch. But we have to temper that excitement with an understanding of how this is a mere blip and ever-expanding police and security state that is growing around us and becoming increasingly militarized and violent.
But we’ve got the system divided and bit and fighting with itself. That’s some sweet action to revel in for a bit. Congrats to all of us who are in this fight.