Passions Rise at “Don’t Shoot” Debate


Trent Nelson

(Photo Courtesy of Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune)

(Photo Courtesy of Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune)
(Photo Courtesy of Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune)

In a debate over Ferguson hosted on campus, community members and students became riled up over whether police officers should be required to wear body cameras in Utah.
A large audience filled the Wednesday event at the Social Work auditorium, with some being turned away at the door due to limited seating. The debate was held because of the recent events in Ferguson, Mo. and the shooting of a black man in Saratoga Springs.
The John R. Park Debate Society at the U argued whether or not police should be required to wear cameras to accurately capture any scene involving police force and a citizen.
According to Brian McCoy, a junior in communication, the debate stirred up many feelings in the audience.
“Some of the questions during the question-answer portion got really heated,” he said. “People are really passionate about this topic right now.”
Barbara Ochoa, spokesperson for the debate team, said the “Don’t Shoot?” event featured a topic with “passion” for a reason.
“This particular debate was so important to hold with the recent events in Ferguson,” Ochoa said. “It raises a lot of questions within the community and includes the concerns of those behind the uniform as well. It provides an opportunity to see both sides of the argument so the audience could unpack the situation more clearly.”
Some of the audience members, such as Paulina Lovato, attended the Saturday Ferguson protest in Salt Lake City. She wanted to hear both sides of the issue.
“It might be an uncomfortable topic, but it begins the conversation here at the U for the youth,” Lovato said. “And the youth will be the leaders.”
Ochoa said the purpose was also to push people out of their comfort zones.
“It’s important for students and others to go to an event that will communicate topics that they are both comfortable and uncomfortable with,” Ochoa said. “The debate team wants to focus on issues based through the community, and this seemed like the topic of choice.”
The event featured key Utah officials, including chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department Chris Burbank and civil rights attorney Randall K. Edwards.
There have been two Ferguson protests on campus since the grand jury chose not to indict police office Darren Wilson in the death of black teenager Michael Brown — the event that started similar riots across the country, particularly in Missouri. The first U protest was on Monday in front of the Marriott Library. The second happened briefly on Thursday when a group of about 10 students marched throughout buildings on campus, including the Union, shouting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
“A lot of students and community members … were fired up about the issue and are aware of what is going on,” Ochoa said.
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