Rosie Rivera was sworn in Tuesday as Sheriff of Salt Lake County. The former Unified Police Deputy Chief faces an overcrowded jail and a homelessness crisis marked by crime, mental illness and drug addiction.
Rivera is the first female and first Latina to be elected as Salt Lake County Sheriff. County Democrats elected Rivera to replace former Sheriff Jim Winder at their convention Saturday. The Salt Lake County Council ratified that decision on Tuesday.
“I’m just honored to be able to be in the leadership position,” Rivera said. “I think that I’m ready to get started. Get to work. We’re going for it.”
First up on Rivera’s agenda is dealing with an overcrowded jail, which she said could mean spending $9 million to open the Oxbow Jail as well as ensuring people who shouldn’t be in jail aren’t kept there.
“We don’t need to book every mentally ill person into jail when we’re interacting with them,” Rivera said. “Sometimes there are other resources and I’m going to try to work with the mayor’s office and the council to try to find alternatives to jail.”
Rivera also wants to put more focus on community policing, improving domestic violence laws and encouraging diversity in the department.
At Tuesday’s confirmation, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson said woman are underrepresented in leadership positions in the state. Wilson herself was the first woman elected to the Salt Lake County Council.
“While we are happy to have her as the most qualified person as elected by the democratic team through our central committee, I want to note that it does matter to have women step up in these leadership positions,” Wilson said. “And I think it does make a difference and working towards parity is a great goal.”
Sheriff Rosie Rivera will fill former Sheriff Jim Winder’s term through November 2018 when she’ll have to run for election for a full four-year term.