Draper Police Battle Moves to Supreme Court

Draper Police Battle Moves to Supreme Court

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John Hollenhorst ReportingA battle over the future of law enforcement in one of Utah's fastest growing cities moved to the Utah Supreme Court today. The issue the court must decide is whether voters in Draper can overrule their elected officials and decide who should do the policing.

The fight over Draper's brand-new police department illustrates an old political axiom: elected officials are natural enemies of the initiative and referendum process. That's because it gives voters a chance to overrule their leaders.

The case now before the Supreme Court started when Draper officials decided to end their policing contract with the County Sheriff. They created a Draper Police Department, which debuted July First.

Darrell Smith/Mayor of Draper: "We were able to save some money in the process. We have more officers full time on the street."

Some voters didn't like the decision and collected 1,400 signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The proposed referendum would abolish the police department and reinstate the county sheriff contract.

Barry Skinner, Petition Sponsor: "Mainly it's the professionality of it. We got more services with the county, and I think the city has misled us on the cost of it. So it's the cost and the professionality with the county sheriff."

A lawyer for the petitioners told the Justices the authority is clear.

Troy Booher, Attorney for Petitioners: “Article six section one of the Utah constitution, which says any legislative act is subject to referendum by the people."

The city's lawyer said voters do not have the power to overrule administrative decisions and dictate contracts. If they don't like the contract they can vote the leaders out on Election Day.

Todd Godfrey, Attorney for Draper City: "If the voters choose a different route in the election, that's the appropriate format. Not through the initiative process."

Draper officials say they studied the policing issue for three years and have better information than most voters. But one of the opponents says that's the kind of arrogance that made him support the referendum.

The Justices took the case under advisement. If they rule in favor of the petitioners it should be on the November ballot.

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