A Sandy City Police Alliance open letter to voters distorts the facts and undermines confidence in public safety, city officials said Monday in defense of their decision to step into a muddy campaign fray.
"We have endorsed no candidate nor made any negative statements in our response," said City Council Chairman Bruce Steadman, who initiated the unusual action. "This was an attempt on our part to set the record straight."Sandy's record on public safety was called into question Thursday, when the alliance, an organization of police department officers and civilian employees, criticized the current administration's handling of crime and firefighting issues. Distributed citywide, the alliance letter encouraged voters to choose anyone but Mayor Steve Newton and Councilman Warren "Dick" Adair in Tuesday's municipal election.
Friday morning, Steadman met with the city administrator, police chief and other officials to discuss the accusations. "At that point, we decided a response was in order," Steadman said, adding, "A majority of the council concurred."
Division supervisors were directed to gather accurate information for a letter to be distributed to the same voters who got the alliance material, which in turn provoked accusations that the city was using public money for political campaigning.
Steadman, however, said the letter is being distributed with private money. "Not because we have to - the city attorney told us that the use of public funds would be justified - but to avoid this kind of accusation," said Steadman.
In its letter, the alliance said, "Under the current administration, the level of service Sandy City provides to you has declined dramatically . . . police protection has dropped dangerously low."
According to the alliance, "Crime is increasing at alarming rates in Sandy. Our parks are becoming centers for drug transactions, alcohol consumption and vandalism. Drunken drivers and speeders make our neighborhood streets dangerous for children and pedestrians. . . . Drug use by our youth is mushrooming. Sex related crimes per capita are among the highest in the nation."
And fire protection "has dropped to a level that is shocking," the alliance charged. Also, "Our streets are poorly maintained and critical sections have not been completed.
Our neighborhoods and streets are poorly lighted. Traffic-control devices are insufficient, and most devices that are in place are outdated. In other words, basic services have not been provided at a level you would expect for your tax dollars."
"Mudslinging," Steadman said to those assertions. "What bothers us is that they (the alliance) has `Sandy City Police' in its name and carries the credibility of that name."
To the accusation that crime has increased at an alarming rate, city officials cited statistics that show major crime incidents rising from 2,403 cases in 1986 to 2,762 last year. Also, those statistics indicate that five Utah cities have more sex crimes than Sandy. And, the response said, "An active DUI program consistently keeps our alcohol-related accident figure less than half of the national average."
Sandy has .92 police officers per 1,000 population, which "is not the lowest in Utah, let alone the nation," city officials wrote. They added that the pay of the average police officer has increased 11.31 percent during the past four years.
On fire protection, the response said fire training and performance "are more intense than at any time in the recent past."
"Our concern is that the public not be mislead by misstatements," Steadman said.