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After rancher's killing, a call for increased police transparency

After rancher's killing, a call for increased police transparency

Dustin Hurst
November 10, 2015
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November 10, 2015

An Idaho rancher is dead after an altercation with police, leading one expert to suggest Idaho examine greater oversight of law enforcement officials.

Connor Boyack, leader of Utah’s Libertas Institute, told IdahoReporter.com the Idaho Legislature needs to enact common sense reforms to learn how police use force against residents.

“This is an issue that unites conservative, liberals, moderates and everyone in between,” Boyack said of many states’ lack of police reporting requirements. “It’s a perfect storm of bad policy.”

Last week, two Adam County deputies shot and killed 62-year-old rancher Jack Yantis. The killing came after a car hit one of Yantis’ bulls and dispatch called the rancher to inform him. According to several media reports, the Yantis made his way to the accident scene, rifle in hand to put down the injured animal. 

Details beyond those are scarce. The sheriff’s office won’t release further information about the killing. The office reported that the deputies involved wore body cameras, but it has not stated if the devices were on and had captured the events.

One family member offered his perspective. Rowdy Paradis, the couple’s nephew, told the Idaho Statesman, “In this case, I stood 10 feet away and watched two deputies escalate the situation and needlessly kill a man.”

Though additional details will eventually surface, Boyack knows situations like this well. More than four years ago in Utah, the case of Matthew David Stewart spurred Boyack to action. Stewart, a military veteran who grew marijuana for medicinal purposes, shot and killed an officer after an aggressive drug raid woke the veteran from his sleep. He wounded five other officers during the gunfight.

Stewart said he didn’t know the people bursting into his home were police because they weren’t sporting any law enforcement identification. After losing a key court hearing, he eventually hanged himself in his jail cell.

Like the Yantis situation, Stewart’s entanglement went awry very quickly.

Boyack and Libertas Institute led the charge for critical police reforms. He persuaded Utah lawmakers to increase the threshold for when police were allowed to break down doors. The bill also required police and other government agencies to report SWAT team data for 16 different categories.

The think tank leader suggested Idaho take a similar route -- not only for SWAT teams, but for any time police use deadly force.

“There’s no data,” Boyack asserts, about some types of police interactions. “Nobody knows what’s going on because there’s no data tracking.”

Boyack’s law, adopted by the Utah Legislature, allows interested parties to obtain key data on SWAT raids, including how many shots were fired, the crime associated with the raid, and if pets were injured, among other factors. He will ask Utah lawmakers to amend the plan next year to expand tracking of armored vehicle deployment and officer-involved shootings.

On a per capita basis Idaho stands as a top state for killings by officers. According to data released by The Guardian, so far in 2015 Idaho ranks 11th nationally for the number of people killed by police per capita.

Idaho officers have killed 7 people this year. In terms of raw ranking, Idaho’s 7 puts the state at No. 35. California, with 175 police killings, sits at No. 1 in terms of the absolute number of people killed.

Oklahoma, with 36 killings by police this year and a relatively small population, is ranked No. 1 in the per capita category.

Police officers have killed 973 people across the nation this year. 

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