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With crime in Salt Lake County at a crossroads, residents need a sheriff with a sense of direction, according to the Democratic candidates.

Lou Bertram, a retired FBI agent and former reserve deputy, thinks he's the best man for the job because of his background and continuing professional commitment to law enforcement.Pete Kutulas, a former sheriff's deputy and county commissioner, thinks his years in law enforcement combined with his leadership experience makes him the best choice.

While they're arguing the point, the Republican incumbent, Aaron Kennard, is sitting out the primary and waiting for one of them to emerge as his opponent. But as the cop manning the crossroads, Kennard is, nevertheless, taking some hits.

"Crime - particularly juvenile crime - is the biggest issue facing this county. If we don't address it now, we're going to lose the battle," Bertram said. "The current sheriff is not addressing it."

"The officers on the street understand the problem better than anyone, but no one is listening to them," Kutulas said. "I plan to do that with a policy of total accessibility. In my opinion, there's an ivory tower kind of administration running the office."

Though both Bertram and Kutulas have extensive law enforcement experience, they offer voters different professional backgrounds, management philosophies and personal styles. They also present different perspectives on the law enforcement problems facing the county as well as the possible solutions.

Bertram, 60, began his law enforcement career in adult probation and parole in 1965. Three years later, he joined the FBI, serving in that agency for 20 years. For eight years, he was senior agent in the Salt Lake field office. Following his retirement, he became a sheriff's reserve deputy for three years.

It was while serving as a reserve deputy that Bertram first came into conflict with Kennard, who terminated him for alleged political activity. Bertram contested the dismissal, won, was reinstated and then resigned. The incident played a major role in his decision to run for sheriff.

"It's a sensitive issue with me," Bertram admits. "It was wrong and unfair. It was a purely political act by Aaron Kennard, and the public doesn't take to that kind of behavior."

The personal dispute between Bertram and Kennard has not gone unnoticed by Kutulas, who said one reason he entered the race was because Bertram's "vendetta" threatened to jeopardize the party's chance for victory.

Kutulas, also 60, served in the sheriff's office for 18 years. He helped organize and commanded the search-and-rescue team for 13 years and was responsible for developing the officer-in-school program that placed deputies in high schools.

After rising to the rank of lieutenant, Kutulas ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 1970. In 1972, he was elected to the County Commission and went on to serve three two-year terms in office. In 1978, he was appointed convention sales executive for the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In 1984, he became the county's security supervisor. He attempted a political comeback in 1986 but lost a race to then-Commissioner Bart Barker. Since then, he has worked for several county agencies, including the Division of Aging Services and Public Works Department.

At the Democratic convention, Kutulas scored 62 percent of the votes to Bertram's 38 percent. Bertram attributes the result to Kutulas' name recognition among party regulars as well as his own status as a political newcomer.

"I learned a lot from the convention," Bertram said. "People told me I was lucky to come out of it at all."

Bertram is convinced he can overcome the near knock-out and win both the primary and the general election if voters compare his qualifications and positions on the issues to those of Kutulas and Kennard.

"One issue that I would like to tackle is better utilization of the reserve corps. My plan is to divide the reserves among the different divisions rather than have them all under a single sergeant. And hopefully, we would provide them with cars. When I was there, we had two cars for 100 reserves."

Bertram also said he would revive the Juvenile Alcohol and Drug Enforcement Unit and put more emphasis on patrolling the canyons. Juvenile crime generally is not being handled well, according to Bertram, because the juvenile gangs don't fear Kennard's administration.

"Well, we'll mess with the gangs. If I'm elected, they are not going to win," Bertram said.

He said he can deliver on his promise by putting deputies who are handling "non-essential" jobs back on the streets. About 20 to 25 deputies could be better utilized, Bertram said, pointing to those currently assigned to the firing range and public information office.

Kutulas also emphasizes street duty, saying the sheriff's resources should be redirected toward enforcement and prevention at the street level.

For example, Kutulas said the $3 million the county is spending to buy two helicopters could have been better spent on deputies. "Most of the officers are overworked and overloaded with cases," Kutulas said. "While I support the use of helicopters, they are not a priority right now; the deputies are."

Bertram, on the other hand, said helicopters contribute significantly to the deputies' effectiveness and should have been purchased years ago. However, he faults the county for buying the foreign-made Eurocopter instead of the American-made Bell helicopter. Bell would have cost $1.8 million less over time, he said, adding, "We could have hired 30 or 40 deputies with that money."

Early in the campaign, Bertram noted that Kutulas had not maintained his law enforcement certification, a requirement to hold the office of sheriff. Even though Kutulas is now enrolled in the state's certification program, Bertram, who has remained certified, said the issue illustrates his greater commitment to law enforcement.

Kutulas rejects the assertion, saying he intended from the start to obtain his certification before the general election.

With the exception of the certification and "vendetta" issues, the candidates have refrained from attacking each other. Each says winning the primary is less important than having a Democrat win in November.

"I honestly believe that come January, there will be a Democratic sheriff," Bertram said. "The people of this county want a change, and either Pete or I can do the job."



Salt Lake County sheriff

Do you share the deputies' concerns about pay equity, and do you support their call for a step plan or other resolution of the issue?


The deputies have my support on that. It's a serious problem; a real morale buster. The issue was brought up eight years ago or more, and it has still not been resolved. What it will take is a commitment on the part of the County Commission and the sheriff, and I assure you, it will be high on my list of priorities.


In all my years in the FBI, I never saw the kind of pay inequity that exists in the sheriff's office, where you have new hires making more than senior deputies. We also have to look at salaries overall. In recent years, the pay level in the sheriff's office has slipped behind some counterparts in other agencies.

Do you approve of the sheriff's purchase of two new helicopters, and do you think the county made the right choice in selecting American Eurocopter over Bell Helicopter?


I support the use of helicopters - I pioneered their use in search and rescue - but I don't consider them a high priority at this time. The sheriff is woefully undermanned, and the resources could have been better spent at the street level. We have detectives who are carrying unprecedented caseloads and patrol officers who are being asked to handle an incredible number of cases. I don't want to get into an argument over which of the helicopters is better, but if we are buying, it would have been my preference to buy an American-made helicopter (Bell). That's not to say that Eurocopter isn't a good helicopter: It is."


I was actively supporting Bell's efforts because I've studied both the French- and American-made helicopters and feel that the American-made Bell is far superior. Also, I feel the people of Salt Lake County are being shortchanged by the purchase of the Eurocopter. The Bell option could have saved the county more than $1 million over time. We could hire 30 or 40 deputies for that much money. I do think that it does make sense to buy the helicopters now. In fact, based on the advantage they provide to law enforcement, it's a decision that should have been made a couple of years ago.

What is the biggest challenge facing the sheriff's office?


Dealing with street crime that is dominated by illicit drugs and juvenile offenders: That is where the focus should be. I'm not advocating any magic solutions, but the priority and focus should be on the streets, doing more in the area of prevention and enforcement and tackling drug abuse. I would advocate a shifting of resources in that area.


Juvenile crime, which interrelates with crime on the whole. Folks on the west side of the valley are practically beside themselves with concern over the issue, and they feel the sheriff is not addressing it. If we don't deal with it now, it will only get worse. We can do it with manpower. We need to get people out on it. I believe we can do it with the existing manpower by reassigning some of the deputies that are now doing non-essential type jobs back out to the streets.

Do you favor increasing the emphasis on consolidation of services between the sheriff and municipal law enforcement agencies?


As sheriff, I would cooperate with any government entity that wanted to participate in consolidated services. On the other hand, I would not force consolidation on anyone. There are a number of things in the law enforcement support area - like dispatch, training, records, communications - that make sense to consolidate, as long as it isn't shoved down the cities' throats.


The consolidation of uniform officers is many, many years down the road, if ever, but as far as services, there is no need for every agency to have its own firing range, records bureau, crime lab or things like that. Consolidation is something that can work; it just takes people sitting down and deciding where they want to cooperate. One problem with the current sheriff is that he says he would like to be over this or that, which scares the cities away. It's got to be a "we" thing, not a "me" thing.

What would be your first priority as sheriff?


My No. 1 interest would be to have complete internal accessibility so that I can begin working with the officers on refocusing and adjusting the priorities of the office. I have a track record of being an innovator, and I'm ready to try some new things, but it all begins with establishing that accessibility that isn't there now.


There are number of things I would like to do, including implement a plan I have for a better utilization of the reserve corps. I think we could increase manpower and effectiveness by dividing up the reserves among the divisions and providing them with more vehicles. Also, I would like to reinstate the juvenile alcohol enforcement unit.

Why should voters vote for you instead of your opponent?


I felt (Bertram's) campaign was based on a vendetta with the sheriff, and that that wasn't a sound reason for running. Also, I haven't seen a solid platform emerge from his campaign, nor a large base of support. I have the management background, law enforcement background and budget background for the job. I'm qualified to be the candidate.


I have an extensive background in law enforcement. In addition to the law enforcement work in the bureau (FBI), I was exposed to administrative and management functions. Also, I have remained active in the criminal justice area; I've remained certified while my opponent has been away from that.