SALT LAKE CITY -- A new era in law enforcement opened Tuesday for the Salt Lake valley. New badges, new shields on patrol cars, even a new name for sheriff's deputies are in the works--but it's more than just names. A fundamental shift is underway in law enforcement.
It's all about unification, consolidating local police jurisdictions into one big one. The final name hasn't been chosen yet--at the moment they're calling it the Unified Police Department. The sheriff loves it; some cities don't.According to the new organization, sheriff's deputies will get a new name: "county police officers." They'll patrol in several cities as the new Unified Police Department. "It's time we started responding to law enforcement as a community instead of as tribes," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.
The big change is a County Police Board, which will oversee the new police department. It includes the county mayor, two county council members and the mayors of participating cities. So far, participating cities include Bluffdale, Herriman, Holladay, Riverton and--to a limited degree--Taylorsville.
Winder says it will be more efficient and effective than the current, fragmented situation.
"I think [it's] a dysfunctional situation, to put not too fine a point on it," Winder said. "We need to be making decisions about law enforcement because criminals cross borders. Decisions about how we impact them should also be made across borders."
But Cottonwood Heights is steering its own course with its own police department, after clashing repeatedly with the sheriff before when they had a contract with him."We had calls for service where there were no sheriff deputies available. They were responding to requests for services in other parts of Salt Lake County, and we found that we were underserved," said Cottonwood Heights City Councilman Bruce Jones. Jones says local control is key.
"It's local residents. They can select their priorities, determine where they want and to what extent they want police services," he said.
But Winder argues that the new board guarantees local control.
"Now the mayors have equal power. This is, in fact, about a power-sharing agreement," Winder said.
The County Council made the new arrangement official Tuesday by agreeing to put unincorporated parts of the county under the Unified Police Department. Now the re-branding begins. The design of new badges, emblems and uniforms is still to be decided.