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Salt Lake County mayors give thumbs down to unified police

SHARE Salt Lake County mayors give thumbs down to unified police

Salt Lake County doesn't need a Unified Police Department, according to Sheriff Aaron Kennard, because the current precinct system is running smoothly.

County mayors agreed and voted Tuesday to postpone creation of the countywide police agency. In fact, the UPD might not ever be created at all.

Members of the UPD's governing board think the current system is working better than they anticipated, Kennard said.

Under that model, several cities contract with the sheriff's office for services, and policing authority is split up between five precincts. The precinct system gives local mayors more control over policing in their area than they did with prior county contracts, and contract issues are more transparent, Kennard said.

"Everything is working fine," he said.

The sheriff originally started the idea of the UPD after Draper and Taylorsville stopped contracting with the sheriff for police services. Kennard said he was afraid his deputies would not find new jobs.

With the UPD, partner cities Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, Bluffdale, Herriman and Riverton, as well as unincorporated Salt Lake County, could pool police services but still retain the ability to control individual precincts.

However, the UPD idea isn't dead yet. The police agency was supposed to be organized by Jan. 1, 2007, but the UPD's governing board pushed that date back to July 2007.

In June, it looked like everything was a go for the police agency, as the governing board made up of mayors, sheriff's office officials and other elected leaders reviewed a proposed $31-million budget.

But several mayors were put off by the high cost of joining the UPD, Bradley said. According to the June budget proposal, the estimated breakdown of costs paid by the cities anticipated to join the UPD would be $3.9 million for Cottonwood Heights; $3.4 million for Holladay; $592,000 for Bluffdale; $1.1 million for Herriman; $2.5 million for Riverton; and $19.3 million for unincorporated Salt Lake County.

By not creating the UPD, the county would avoid nearly $3 million in start-up costs, county councilman Jim Bradley said. Hiring a new police chief, human-resource director, budget officer or other key positions is pointless if the county already employs people with those same skills, Bradley said.

"We can have all the efficiencies of the UPD without having to go there," Bradley said. "As long as it works, it will be a hell of a lot better than what we had before."

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com