Taylorsville Police continue to receive rave reviews as the department reaches its first 'birthday'Jul 01, 2022 11:25AM ● By Carl Fauver
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
Back in the summer of 2020 – with the pandemic raging and still no vaccine in sight – a lot of eyebrows were raised when the Taylorsville City Council announced it had had enough with the Unified Police Department. They notified UPD of their intent to leave if significant operational changes weren’t made.
In essence, UPD said that word parents hate from their child: “Whatever.”
Jump ahead to summer 2021 – following a year of organizational meetings – along comes the bright and shiny new Taylorsville City Police Department. From Mayor Kristie Overson on down, everyone was singing from the same hymnal – taking the agency “in house” was the right move. But honestly, who really knew, until the new department started writing tickets, arresting ‘bad guys’ and getting the work done correctly and professionally?
Which brings us to now – July 1… the one-year anniversary of the Taylorsville Police Department. Once and, apparently, for all, any naysayers have been silenced. Now with a 12-month performance record to point to, city elected officials are grateful to have been proven right.
“It was the best decision we could have made,” Overson said. “It was a tough decision. It was a big move. And it took us a year to get it up and going. Of course, you had to sometimes wonder ‘should we or shouldn’t we do this?’ But the change has been so positive for our residents. We hear from them all the time. They love seeing our police vehicles with the Taylorsville name on them. And our department is doing such a good job of building strong relationships in the community.”
City Council Vice Chair Meredith Harker concurs.
“Creating our own police department was 100% the right move to make,” she said. “I have heard nothing but positive things from our residents. The local control is crucial. When we knew we needed more officers and another civilian employee, the City Council was able to make that decision on its own. We didn’t have to go through the county or some board. Our officers are 100% invested in Taylorsville residents. And I feel there is a lot more community pride when you have your own police department.”
Police Chief Brady Cottam believes all of his officers and staff feel the support they receive from their mayor and city council. And he’s also appreciative of the praise he receives from them personally.
“I get so many accolades – I don’t really deserve it – I am lucky to work with very good people who help me,” Cottam said. “The city (council and administration) has been very supportive. They approved raises for our officers even before I had to ask. They also approved some additional hires. My officers feel that. They love working for the Taylorsville Police Department.”
The Chief explained, just six months into operations, back in January, the City Council’s mid-year budget adjustments included 12% salary raises for his officers and 8% raises for sergeants.
“I did not have to go beg – the city administration and council wanted to do the right thing, because the (Salt Lake Valley-wide) wage war (for police officers) was moving so quickly,” he explained. “When we first hired our people, our wages were higher and many qualified people applied. But then other agencies began raising their wages. We were quickly again becoming a ‘bottom feeder’ within six months. So, the council took action. It was incredibly surprising. I said, ‘Sure, we’ll take a raise.’ I didn’t have to ask.”
Cottam says it is a far cry from most of his years in law enforcement, when he had to work multiple jobs just to pay his mortgage and feed his family.
More recently – as Taylorsville City Council members crunched the numbers for their just-approved 2022-2023 fiscal year budget that went into effect also on July 1 – the elected officials funded three new positions in their police department: two officers and one civilian post.
“One of the new officers will be a second resource officer working at Taylorsville High School,” Overson explained. “The second officer is being hired because we have been invited to provide one of our officers to a joint police task force through the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The AG will pay part of that salary. The new civilian employee will handle the department’s GRAMA requests.”
GRAMA stands for Government Records Access and Management Act. For decades, these requests for information were nearly always made by the media. But in recent years, with more police transparency advocacy, the number of requests has grown incredibly.
“We receive 150 to 175 GRAMA requests per week,” Cottam said. “I respect the need for transparency in policing. I love the fact that ALL of our Taylorsville Police Department policies are online (taylorsvilleut.gov/services/tvpd). But these individual requests from all kinds of groups and individuals are really creating a lot of extra work. We need that extra person to handle it.”
As for the second resource officer at Taylorsville High, Cottam believes that’s another critical need.
“This past school year was the first at Taylorsville High that had four grades at the school,” the chief explained. “That meant two full classes (freshmen and sophomores) moved into the school at the same time. That big shift led to some issues among students. Several times our single resource officer at the school had to call in other officers to assist. I’m glad the city agreed with me, dedicating a second officer to the high school is a good move to keep students safe.”
Taylorsville High Principal Emme Liddell also agrees.
“Our student population grew by about 1,000 last fall, when those two grades arrived at once, from about 1,900 students to just under 2,900,” Liddell said. “We didn’t have any real serious incidents – nothing involving guns or other weapons. But we are just such a large school now – the second largest in the Granite School District, behind Granger High – that I believe a second SRO is important. We are so appreciative of how the city and the police department support us. They care about the safety of our students.”
Granite School District has shared in paying the salary for the first THS resource officer. City officials are now negotiating with the district to determine what, if any, portion of the second resource officer’s salary the district will pick up.
“The safety of our students comes first,” Overson said. “We decided to fund the second resource officer and then negotiate with the district after the fact. But regardless of what the school district decides, we will have a second officer dedicated to Taylorsville High.”
Other than adding a couple of new employees, however, the plan in the Taylorsville Police Department is to continue doing things in year two much as they did in year one.
“I have great people working for me,” Cottam said. “Unfortunately, I have had to fire a lot of people during my law enforcement career. I hate doing it; but I am not afraid to do it, when it’s necessary. But I have not had to terminate one person in my first year as chief. Honestly, I am surprised it has gone that way. But it shows the quality of people I have in this department.”
And what about “firing” himself?“This past year has been the hardest of my life,” Cottam concluded. “I remember telling my wife, 'society blows stress out of proportion.' But now I have felt it. This job is nonstop. I have to force myself to stop thinking about it at times. But despite the stress, I do enjoy it. My wife and I will reevaluate in a few years. For now, I have no plans to do anything else."