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More Control, Lower Costs — Why Some Salt Lake Communities Are Leaving The Unified Police Department

via Riverton City Website
Riverton City decided to leave the Unified Police Department to create its own force, citing a lack of control and level of service for the cost.

The Midvale City Council recently stalled on a decision to pull out of the Unified Police Department. And on July 1, Taylorsville voted to leave UPD to form its own, more community-based law enforcement agency.

Around a dozen communities in Salt Lake County pay into the Unified Police Department. In exchange, UPD spokesperson Det. Ken Hansen said they get more cost-effective access to pooled administrative and specialty services, like dispatch and forensics.

“The whole point of UPD is to use shared resources to provide better law enforcement services to the community,” Hansen said.

But Taylorsville and Midvale are just the latest cities to reconsider their involvement with the department. In 2018, Herriman and Riverton both decided to leave to create their own police force.

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs said the costs outweighed the benefits. 

For starters, Riverton had one voting member on UPD’s board of directors. Staggs said that meant the city couldn’t make its own decisions about the level of service it provided. In the decade Riverton was part of UPD, Staggs said they hadn’t added one new officer. 

“We had 26 officers in our precinct,” he said. “Ten years later, we still had 26, despite the fact that our population had grown considerably.”

Staggs said Riverton has been able to add nine police officers — for the same amount they were paying for UPD services. He said taxpayers have noticed a difference.

“With that many more officers, our police are able to do more proactive policing,” he said. “[Residents] see many more [police] at community events and other areas where they can be integrated into the community, so it’s a huge win.”

Hansen said, though, he expects cities that withdraw from UPD might return in the future.

“Maybe they look at their budgets and go, ‘whoa, this is a lot more than we thought it would be to start our own police department,’” he said.

A year after standing up their new police department, Staggs said Riverton doesn’t plan to rejoin UPD anytime soon.

“Our public is very supportive of our police department,” he said. “We feel like it’s been a great move.”

Taylorsville intends to leave the Unified Police Department by July 2021, while the Midvale City Council plans to revisit the issue.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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