Taylorsville Police Department officially takes charge of residents’ safetyJul 20, 2021 10:46AM ● By Carl Fauver
Deputy Chief Todd Gray, Deputy Chief Brett Miller and Chief Brady Cottam (L-R) are at the helm of the brand-new Taylorsville Police Department, which officially began protecting city residents and property July 1. (Taylorsville City)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
On the day Taylorsville City celebrated 25 years of incorporation (July 1, 2021), the community also welcomed back—for a second go-around—its own independent police department.
The first stand-alone Taylorsville Police Department was disbanded in 2012, when city officials decided it would be more effective and economical to contract their law enforcement services with the Unified Police Department. But after years of watching their fees go up, without a corresponding improvement in service, the city council voted unanimously last year to go it alone, again.
One of the first moves the city council made was to hire recently retired Unified Fire Department veteran Jay Ziolkowski as its Taylorsville police transition team leader. He reports that the team has been busy but not overwhelmed as it attended to every detail in building a 69-employee agency from scratch.
“We began meeting once a week last summer and have been meeting at least twice a week, since April,” Ziolkowski said. “Our biggest challenge came early, when [UPD Taylorsville Precinct] Chief [Tracy] Wyant changed his mind about becoming our chief. I had already checked that box. But since then, everything has gone pretty smoothly. A lot of that is due to how much the city council supports law enforcement. That has helped the hiring process a lot.”
One of the primary reasons the city council voted last year to leave UPD was its feeling the county law enforcement agency was not doing enough to keep staff salaries competitive with other Salt Lake Valley agencies. In fact, during his final few years as Precinct Chief, Wyant never had 100% staffing. There was money for more officers but not enough qualified applicants—due, in part, to below average wages.
New Taylorsville Police Chief Brady Cottam reports that is an issue his new department faced head-on. And, as a result, they were flooded with applications from more than a dozen Utah police departments.
“I was extremely pleased with all the applications we received—160 to 170 of them,” Cottam said. “It was quite the task going through all those resumes. On average, our officers are starting out, earning 2% to 8% more money than they were. But it is not just the pay. The word is out, how much [the Taylorsville City Council and administration] support law enforcement. People want to work in a department where they are appreciated.”
With 25 years of law enforcement experience, Cottam was in the new agency’s leadership picture from day one. Originally, he was to be one of two deputy chiefs under Wyant. When Wyant chose instead to retire, Cottam was named Taylorsville police chief last winter.
The second deputy chief Wyant had selected, Todd Gray, from the West Valley City Police Department, remains in that role, under Cottam.
In February, the No. 3 person in the new department was hired. Like Cottam, Brett Miller comes to the new agency from the UPD Taylorsville Precinct. He was originally hired as a lieutenant. But during its June 16 meeting, the city council officially approved Miller’s appointment, instead, as the second deputy chief.
“I’ve known Brett for years; in fact, I worked with his father, Scott Miller, when he was in our department,” Cottam said. “Brett was the [UPD] street crimes supervisor. He has a really good reputation. He’s an outstanding individual with an amazing mind. I feel very confident we have the command structure we need.”
Miller will be over all Taylorsville Police Department investigations. Gray, meanwhile, will oversee patrol officers.
Under Cottam, Gray and Miller, the new police agency has 10 sergeants, from four Salt Lake Valley police departments: Murray, Salt Lake City, UPD and West Valley City.
“I was a detective for UPD [Taylorsville Precinct] and have 11 years law enforcement experience,” new Sgt. Orin Neal said. “Taylorsville has always felt like home, because no city administration supports police more. It was an easy choice [to move from UPD to the new agency]—a no brainer.”
New Sgt. Jake Hill agrees.
“I have 13 years of law enforcement experience and am coming over from West Valley City,” he said. “I know the reputation Taylorsville has (for supporting police) and I am looking forward to working here.”
Like Sgt. Neal, another new sergeant migrating over from the UPD Taylorsville Precinct is 18-year police veteran Kresdon Bennett.
“I enjoy the [Taylorsville] city administration and culture,” Bennett said. “I appreciate Chief Cottam’s vision for where he wants the department to go.”
The new sergeants also report, all Taylorsville City officers will be equipped with body cameras starting on day one. And department brass continue to explore the possibility of creating a citizen advisory board, to allow the public more opportunity to understand how and why their officers carry out their duties the way they do.
The 10 Taylorsville Police sergeants were hired in mid-May. The department’s 50 police officers joined the agency in mid-June. Generally, those officers are earning $27 to $37 per hour, depending on their years of experience. Cottam reports that other law enforcement agencies start offers as low as $20 per hour.
Rounding out the roster of 69 Taylorsville City Police Department employees are six civilians: evidence, office and records managers, two office specialists and a victims’ advocate.
Despite recent controversies in the Salt Lake City Police Department and elsewhere, Cottam also remains committed to operating a three-dog police K9 squad.
“This is not something we need to push the panic button on [due to negative incidents in other jurisdictions],” Cottam said. “Dogs are a valuable tool. We don’t need a knee-jerk reaction. Fortunately, we have been able to hire some previous [dog] handlers with a lot of experience. Sgt. Jake Palmer from West Valley City [PD] will be our K9 supervisor. We feel we will have a very good program.”
Cottam said Palmer is now working through recognized, professional K9 vendors to locate the animals. After being properly trained, the K9 squad is expected to be fully operational sometime next year.
Initially, the Taylorsville Police Department will partner with neighboring agencies for certain specialties, such as SWAT team responses. But Cottam said his department could develop its own SWAT team in the years ahead.
“The Taylorsville City mayor, council and staff are all tremendous,” Cottam said. “Residents are going to have quality officers protecting them, because those officers feel supported. Negative [media] coverage of policing [nationwide] has forced a lot of good officers to leave the field early. And fewer people are now going into police work. But with the administrative support we have, I’m confident our department will do well.”