City council passes resolution enthusiastically endorsing Unified Police
Nov 07, 2018 04:24PM
● By Jana Klopsch
Chairman Brad Christopherson led the charge on the Taylorsville City Council to approve a declaration of support for Unified Police. (UPD. (Carl Fauver/Valley Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
In the midst of one city council (Herriman) announcing it is definitely cancelling its law enforcement contract with the Unified Police Department — and a second council (Riverton) voting to do the same — Taylorsville City Council Chairman Brad Christopherson took it upon himself to let the sometimes-beleaguered agency know that his city very much appreciates their hard work.
In fact, Christopherson led the charge to get the council to unanimously endorse a formal resolution, in essence asking UPD to raise the city’s law enforcement fees.
“This is a statement to Unified Police that we endorse them,” Christopherson said during the meeting where the resolution was approved. “I don’t think I really have the words to say how critical I believe this is to our citizens. Law enforcement is an honorable profession, and we want the Unified Police Department Board of Directors to examine the salaries and benefits they are offering to make sure they are remaining competitive with other (Salt Lake Valley) law enforcement agencies.”
“We are very honored they drafted and passed this resolution,” UPD Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant said after the meeting. “It clearly displays the city council’s support for our agency, which I have always felt since taking this position six years ago.”
Taylorsville is one of the largest areas in which Unified Police provides law enforcement in the valley. About 14 percent of UPDs jurisdiction is Taylorsville City, roughly equivalent to Millcreek, which incorporated less than two years ago.
At the same time Herriman is leaving UPD — and Riverton is threatening to follow suit —Christopherson hopes this clear signal of support being sent by Taylorsville will be repeated in other areas.
“I have not personally reached out to other jurisdictions encouraging them to pass UPD support resolutions,” he said. “But I do think it would be a good idea. Many police jurisdictions across the valley have recently raised their wage and benefit packages for police officers, while UPD has not. As a result, the new employee recruiting advantage Unified Police once had is eroding.”
Wyant agrees with that assessment. In fact, he took it upon himself to review the numbers that prove the point.
“I gathered salary and benefit data from virtually all of the police precincts serving the (Salt Lake) Valley, just to put them all together on a spreadsheet to easily compare them,” Wyant said. “The data shows as other agencies have boosted their officer salaries in recent months — while UPD has not — this agency is now far less competitive as we seek new recruits. There is now significant competition for qualified new police recruits, and we are having a tougher time getting our share of them.”
Ironically, for the first time since Wyant took his position, the Taylorsville UPD precinct is fully staffed at the moment. However, that is only because of a one-time anomaly.
“We have always been short a few officers since I came in July 2012, when Taylorsville contracted with Unified Police (after voting to disband the city’s stand-alone law enforcement agency),” he said. “The only reason we are fully staffed now is that, when Herriman created its own police department, several of our officers — who did not want to go with the new agency — were assigned to precincts like this one. So that was a one-time deal.”
Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson had no vote on the resolution but is happy it passed.
“You are empowering me — as a member of the Unified Police Department Board of Directors — to go before them and say my support of the agency comes directly from our city council,” Overson told the body, just before the vote. “This strengthens my position on the board.”
The vote is also another clear indication the Taylorsville City Council is likely moving toward a property tax increase next year, just as many other Wasatch Front municipalities have already done in recent years.
At the moment, there is no formal proposal before the UPD board to raise salary and benefits for new officers. But all parties involved seem to agree, that is just a matter of time. Such an increase would likely require the property tax hike.
Christopherson is ready to take whatever taxpayer heat may come with that.
“As all of these other (law enforcement) agencies increase their salaries and benefits, our (Unified Police) department is losing out on qualified people,” he said. “The so-called ‘thin blue line’ is getting thinner. I want to nip that in the bud.”