The Grand County Sheriff’s Office recently agreed to hold sensitivity and diversity training following an incident involving a deputy twirling a lasso while searching for a Black suspect.
President of the Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP Jeannette Williams confirmed that Grand Co. Sheriff Steven White committed to offer more training for his department after the incident sparked public outrage.
“We had a good conversation,” Williams said. “And in talking to him, I took him at his word. He’s going to ask for my input, and I told him to call me anytime.”
The controversy stemmed from the actions of Deputy Amanda Edwards while searching for a shoplifter in Moab, southeast Utah, on July 10.
The suspect, a Black male, allegedly stole a pair of sunglasses.
As she walked past shops and homes during her search, Deputy Edwards could be seen on her bodycam footage chatting with bystanders and twirling a lasso, joking about catching the suspect with the tool.
“Are you going to lasso him?” one observer asked her.”
That was my plan, man,” the deputy responds in the video. “I mean, it’s better than running, right?”
Throughout her 35-minute search, the deputy could be seen whistling and jumping on top of trash cans.
“That’s going to look really bad if you use that,” a fellow deputy told her.
“Better than a Taser,” Edwards responded.
“Dude, so many people took pictures of me with my rope.” She added later, hoping that she wouldn’t get bad press.
“What are they going to say? It’s not like I (expletive) anybody up with it.”
In a report obtained by KSL from a public records request, Deputy Edwards wrote that her actions were done in a joking manner and that she did not expect to actually locate the suspect.
The Black community, however, was outraged by the action, saying it triggered historical memories of lynchings and of white law enforcement officers apprehending escaped slaves.
Williams said that any Black onlookers who encountered the deputy “could literally have a heart attack because they would flashback to the lynchings that went on.”
“This isn’t a rodeo, and this is no way to apprehend a human being,” she added.
After an internal investigation, Sheriff White said Edwards faced disciplinary actions, including a 90-day corrective action plan and 18 hours of training on standards of conduct, use of force and defensive tactics.
“I don’t take that as joking,” White said of her behavior. “It’s about professionalism. You treat everybody the same. You treat everybody professionally. That’s the way it should be.”
In a letter to Edwards from a supervisor detailing the corrective plan, they warned the deputy that any repeat incidents could result in “immediate disciplinary action” and termination.
“I commend your honest integrity in divulging the totality of the incident and remain convinced you will grow in your ability overcoming this matter,” the letter read. “My trust and confidence in your ability have not waivered as you continue your career as a member of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.”
Edwards, who has been on the force for roughly three years, has also been the recipient of several awards.
For instance, the Utah Chiefs of Police Association named her the 2020 Small Agency Officer of the Year during her time with the Moab Police Department, and last year, she received an NAACP honor for rescuing two female victims and negotiating with a domestic violence suspect during a standoff.