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PROVO — Fred Ross said he had several people approach him about applying to become Provo's next police chief.
But it was a late night walk along Center Street on Monday and spending over an hour with the owner of a pizza restaurant that convinced him he had made the right decision.
"We just started talking and he explained about downtown and Center Street, which is extremely vibrant, and it was very obvious that what he was asking for was right down my alley. I have a deep, rich tradition in community policing, and that's what I love. And I have a philosophy of crime prevention through economic development and economic development through crime prevention," Ross said.
"If we can keep the businesses safe and vibrant, that takes the criminal element out. They're not interested in being here. And that's what we want."
On Tuesday, Ross was introduced as Provo's new police chief. He will take over for John Geyerman who has served as interim chief since Rich Ferguson retired in July.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi thanked Ferguson for delaying his retirement as the city took the "long road" to finding the "perfect person" to replace him.
During Tuesday's announcement, the mayor also presented Ross with several welcoming gifts, including a magnifying glass symbolizing honesty and integrity; a welcome mat to show he will be accessible to all in the community; a clock to symbolize his commitment to policing a diverse community with the understanding that all voices must be heard; and a compass symbolizing his ability to lead.
"An organization's shortcomings are a direct reflection of its leadership. In short, the buck stops with you, chief, and with me," Kaufusi said. "Together, we commit to working together to keep Provo safe and sound for generations to come."
Ross told the audience that he agrees with the mayor that ''ethical leadership is best done by example." He promised to do any job that is required of him, and to get out in the community and meet as many people as he can. Ross said his goal is to make Provo the safest city in America and he praised Kaufusi and Ferguson for their work over the past few years.
"One of the most important things to me in 30-something years of policing is it's far more important who I work for than what I do," he said.
Ross joined the Salt Lake City Police Department in 1995 and rose to the rank of deputy chief before retiring in 2015. At that time, he became the police chief of the Utah Transit Authority. Ross' old boss, former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, was among those in attendance for Tuesday's announcement.
Tuesday's press conference was held in Provo's new City Hall, which will include the new police department that is still under construction at the corner of 500 West and Center Street. City leaders expect to start moving into their new building in June. For many officers in attendance, it was their first chance to see the inside of their future new home.