Taylorsville will form its own police department, leave Unified police

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) With sirens and lights blazing, dozens of Salt Lake County Sheriffs and Unified Police arrive with kids in their squad cars for a Christmas shopping spree in Riverton as part of Shop with a Shield program on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Taylorsville has announced that it will join Riverton and cut ties with UPD.

Taylorsville “sincerely appreciates” the Unified Police Department and, according to Mayor Kristie Overson, the city has “benefited” from its membership in the agency — but it’s going to form its own police department next year.

“It is not a decision we made lightly,” Overson in a statement. “We have long been a champion of UPD and have greatly appreciated their service, particularly the enduring work of our precinct officers to keep our community safe. At the same time, we recognize that we are at a crossroads. We want to take what’s great about UPD and build upon it.”

The decision comes at a time when local policing has become the subject of a national debate and protests across the country. And, according to the mayor, that played into the decision.

“We see the importance of policy in relationship to policing,” she said. “Particularly now, with the current political climate, we do not think it is wise to outsource our police department.”

Taylorsville plans to hold a series of focus groups to help determine how the city’s police department will operate. “This is an opportunity to look at policing differently,” Overson said. “During this next year, the city will closely study best practices, police modeling, innovations surrounding law enforcement, and define our vision for the future.”

She sent a letter notifying Unified police the city intends to withdraw on July 1, 2021. “We look forward to building on the accomplishments of UPD and partnering with it and other agencies as we develop our own police department,” she wrote in the letter.

The city has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Unified. After contracting with the Salt Lake County sheriff’s office when it incorporated in 1996, Taylorsville formed its own police force in 2005. At the urging of then Sheriff Jim Winder and then-Mayor Russ Wall, Taylorsville joined UPD (which was formed in 2010) in 2012 — a move he argued would save the city money.

According to Overson, the city will “realize some savings” by leaving UPD, although she did not specify how much. But, she said, the decision was not based entirely on budgetary considerations — the”primary reason “ is the city’s “desire to have more influence and control over police services.”

City Council Chairwoman Meredith Harker said she and the other four members of the council agree with the decision. “Public safety is a responsibility we take very seriously,” she said in a statement. “When you think about the role of community governance, maintaining and supporting a strong police force is vital.”

The Taylorsville City Council plans to approve the decision at a meeting July 1.

Taylorsville will follow in the footsteps of Cottonwood Heights, Herriman and Riverton, who also ended their contracts with the Salt Lake County sheriff’s office or UPD and formed their own police departments. After Taylorsville’s departure, UPD will continue to police unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County along with Copperton Township, Holladay City, Kearns Township, Midvale City, Magna Township, Millcreek City and White City Township.