Another city in Salt Lake County may be forming its own police department.
The Midvale City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss a possible “notice of intent” to withdraw from the Unified Police Department in favor of running its own agency.
It’s the second city in the past week to announce such a move. Last week, Taylorsville officials sent a letter notifying Unified police the city intends to withdraw on July 1, 2021. It plans to hold a series of focus groups to help determine how the city’s police department will operate.
Taylorsville is following in the footsteps of Cottonwood Heights, Herriman and Riverton, which also ended their contracts with the Salt Lake County sheriff’s office or UPD and formed their own police departments.
While the Midvale decision comes at a time when policing has become the subject of a national debate — and there have been protests across the country and in Utah — city officials say they have been thinking about this change for nearly a year.
It’s been driven, in part, by costs, and lack of control of salaries and budgets, said city manager Kane Loader.
After saving money in the initial years of UPD membership, Loader said Midvale City has become more and more concerned by the annual UPD costs increases, the low officer pay and budget cuts in local precincts.
“We want to see officers get paid what they should be paid,” he said, “and see budget cuts in other areas that can give them those increases.”
Two months ago, Midvale hired a financial consultant to study what it would cost to start a new police department and operate it internally. The consultant looked at data from numerous police departments — but focused mainly on Riverton, Murray and South Salt Lake.
The preliminary results show that Midvale could save as much as $700,000 annually if it creates its own department, Loader said.
Midvale currently pays $8.6 million annually to UPD for police services. That fee is expected to increase in the next fiscal year to $8.9 million, the study notes.
Start-up costs for a new police department would cost between $5 and $7.2 million — depending on the number of officers the city hired and how much it would cost to purchase new vehicles and equipment.
Annual operating costs would range between $8.1 million to $8.8 million, the study shows.
While there are pros and cons to operating a police department, Loader said, the goal would be do it without a tax increase. “If we stay the course with UPD,” he predicted, “next year the city could be looking at a fairly sizeable increase.”
Loader said if Midvale does decide to start its own department, it wouldn’t make the split until July 2021.
UPD’s jurisdiction would then include unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County along with Copperton Township, Holladay City, Kearns Township, Magna Township, Millcreek City and White City Township.