- Associated Press - Friday, December 20, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah authorities have released an internal police review outlining areas of improvement but found no signs of excessive use of force during a protest that turned physical.

The Salt Lake Police Department has released their incident review Thursday saying police officers showed restraint in their response to protesters storming the Chamber of Commerce Building in July despite an officer punching at least one protester.

The 12-page report was based on a review of more than 100 written accounts by officers, more than 340 body camera videos and photos and media and building security camera footage, officials said.

The review commends officers for “maintaining their composure during a dynamic and increasingly volatile situation, where some of the officers were physically attacked by the demonstrators. They showed great restraint in removing the demonstrators from a dangerous situation, with little direction, in the chaos that was present.”

Fourteen people face criminal charges following the protest against the Utah Inland Port, a global trade hub planned in Salt Lake City, authorities said.

Utah Against Police Brutality organizer Dave Newlin accused an officer of punching him and said the review misconstrued what happened and downplayed officers’ use of force.

A police spokesman, Greg Wilking, declined to release the first name of the accused officer named as Sgt. Hatch in the report for fear of harassment.

“You can see the anger in his eyes,” Newlin told the Salt Lake Tribune, “(the punch) was not an action that he took out of some sort of thoughtful effort to bring the situation to a close. It was out of anger because he lost control of himself.”

Newlin is a former Salt Lake Tribune employee.

The protest resulted in damages of more than $9,200, the report said.

Areas for police protest response improvement included recommendations for more training on how to handle protester tactics such as the “sleeping dragon,” a device that made up of PVC pipes that protesters used to handcuff each other together on the sixth floor of the building, officials said.

“Given the dynamic situation the restraint used by the officers was admirable,” Salt Lake police public relations director Christina Judd said. “We have room for improvement, but overall it was a lot of moving parts that were handled quickly in a pretty professional way.”

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