SALT LAKE CITY — The president of Utah’s largest police organization said Tuesday its issue with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall "is now behind us" after a meeting between the two sides.
Utah Fraternal Order of Police President Brent Jex wrote in an open letter that dialogue was established between the mayor and one of the organization’s national trustees, an officer who was injured when protests in Salt Lake City over the death of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer morphed into a riot Saturday. Salt Lake police and officers from agencies all over the county and state were dispatched in an effort to quell the riot late Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, Mendenhall called for members of the public to report acts of police who treated individuals unfairly after officers arrived to quell the riots late Saturday afternoon. That prompted an open letter from the police organization, which has about 4,000 members, that blasted how Mendenhall handled the situation.
Jex appeared on KSL NewsRadio’s "Dave & Dujanovic" Monday and said he wished the mayor had shown "a little bit more appreciation" for the officers who responded and said he thought Mendenhall’s call for complaints was a "slap in the face."
Mendenhall also appeared on the show Monday and said she had repeatedly thanked officers for their help and said the city asked for people to report cases where police treated individuals unfairly in an effort for more police transparency.
Jex’s letter Tuesday states Mendenhall reached out and "apologized for the messaging and sought a working relationship with the FOP."
"We genuinely express our appreciation for the olive branch she extended and look forward to having a solid relationship with her," the letter stated. "While we will likely not agree on every circumstance or topic, we will at least have the dialogue to ensure that our thoughts and opinions can be shared."
KSL.com has reached out to the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office for comment on the meeting but did not receive a response by the time this article posted.
Saturday’s riot led to a citywide curfew that lasted from 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Monday. The curfew, which has been enforced by police and the Utah National Guard, was originally extended from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day this week but Mendenhall announced Wednesday the curfew was lifted.
Protests against Floyd’s death, police brutality and racism have continued Monday and Tuesday but have been peaceful. Salt Lake City police reported Tuesday that more than a dozen people were arrested Monday but almost all were for failing to disperse after the curfew began.
At the same time, Utah police agencies and prominent community leaders have publicly shown efforts to work together and find solutions to the issues being protested. For example, Mendenhall and Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown met with various people Tuesday to receive feedback on the use of force, arrest techniques, body cameras and conduct standards, as well as training for those issues.
The meeting included Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, Jeanetta Williams, president of Salt Lake City's NAACP chapter, Dr. France Davis, who recently as the pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church and Utah Jazz chaplain Corey Hodges.
Kamaal Ahmad, a former Weber State assistant football coach, was among the small group of people who attended. He told KSL TV he appreciated the openness and transparency displayed in the meeting.
"That’s why we need to be a model for the rest of the nation," Ahmad said. "It’s unbelievable. This is the fourth state I’ve lived in and I’ve never seen like this."
The Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP and the Utah Fraternal Order of Police also jointly announced Tuesday a "cooperative agreement to work together to bridge the community divide." That came after both sides met Tuesday "in an effort to reconcile the current narrative that exists" and to also create a plan to "foster dialogue and understanding between the police and the communities that they serve."
"Solutions are created in discussions of collaboration and understanding, followed by improvements," the joint statement read, in part. "Rioting only pushes the important issues from the surface, allowing all sides to feel abandoned by the other. Our organizations look forward to this ongoing working relationship."