Riverton announces its intent to leave Unified Police Department

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RIVERTON — Riverton has submitted its 12-month notice to end its contract with the Unified Police Department.

During an emergency meeting at 7 a.m. Thursday, the Riverton City Council approved a resolution announcing the city's intent to leave Unified police, just as Herriman announced it was doing two months ago.

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs said the reason for the urgency of the meeting was that he learned late Wednesday afternoon about a motion on the Unified board of directors meeting — scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Thursday — that called for approval of a new financial formula regarding cities that leave Unified police prior to their one-year contract expiring.

Staggs, who is a member of the Unified board, said in addition to the new formula potentially costing Riverton up to $1 million, it's been a "far too common practice" for the board to withhold critical information until the last minute.

"This last-minute surprise … really I think forced our hand and put us in a situation where we need to take action immediately," he said.

Anticipating the board would approve the motion, Riverton passed its own resolution as a pre-emptive move.

Asked whether the city intended to follow through with its proposal to start its own police force in a year or if the emergency meeting was done to make a statement to the Unified board of directors, Staggs said the city will now move forward with the goal of leaving.

"Our concern again is if we don't take action now, our residents, who have been paying taxes all along and have been accumulating certain fund balances and a certain share of all the assets of Unified Police Department, may not get their fair share," he said.

When the Unified board meeting was held 90 minutes later, Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini told Riverton's city manager that he would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk about the issues before the City Council made its decision.

"Is there a possibility we can keep Riverton in the fold, or are you telling us you're leaving in a year?" he asked.

City Manager Konrad Hildebrandt replied that the city is on record as intending to leave, but the council might "potentially reconsider" if certain issues are worked out.

Staggs agreed.

"There is an option to effectively rescind what was just done. We would, I think, need to have a number of changes made with the way that UPD is not only governed, but also administered on the financial side," he said.

Among Staggs' list of issues is the current composition of Unified's board of directors, officer assignments and allocations between the cities, mutual aid, and the fact that Herriman is leaving makes Riverton an "island" in the Unified police network.

But the main point of contention is a proposal, drafted by Unified's governance committee, that looks at the assets and liabilities of the Unified Police Department and how those are affected by a city that decides to leave. The proposal calls for a new formula in which cities that leave prior to their one-year contact essentially don't get all the money back that they put into the department.

Sheriff Rosie Rivera said the department has been working with Riverton for months.

"We felt like we needed to put something in place, just from the experience we're having with Herriman. We needed to put something in place for other agencies who choose to leave UPD, that there's a formula in place. To us, it's a fair formula," she said. "We're trying to make it so it's fair to everyone."

She said the board of directors recently changed its composition in January and is looking to hire a new chief financial officer potentially as early as Monday. She hoped Riverton would stay with the department while changes are made to fix problems the new board and new Unified police administration inherited.

Board members ultimately agreed that the proposal felt like it was being rushed, that no one really had a clear understanding of it, and there should be a consideration for cities to leave their contracts early if it coincides with the start of a budget. The board voted to delay a decision on the proposal until there could be more discussion.

After the meeting Staggs, who noted that he did not have any issues with the service Unified officers have been providing Riverton, said the decision to delay the vote was encouraging.

"It definitely is, postponing that action and not taking that stance on how to calculate assets on withdrawal. It's not final yet, but it's encouraging," he said.

When asked about getting input from Riverton's residents before making the move to withdraw from Unified police, Staggs said the city will be taking public comment in the coming months, but Thursday's board meeting warranted emergency action.

"This is one of the reasons people elect us in this representative democracy. There are a lot of great detail and pieces behind this decision," he said. "And I think that the voters elect their representatives to represent them in this case, which is what they're doing now."

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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