Upon her historic swearing-in as Salt Lake County’s first female sheriff Tuesday, Rosie Rivera affirmed her commitment to making law enforcement more diverse and promised a new era of community policing before a throng of supporters at the Salt Lake County Government Center.
She was sworn in as head of one of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies and will oversee the Unified Police Department, county jail and court security.
Rivera, a 24-year veteran of law enforcement, left her post as chief of policing in the Unified Police Department’s Riverton precinct to take over for former Sheriff Jim Winder.
“It’s a true honor to be able to be sworn in today,” Rivera said shortly after taking the oath of office.
While she could reshape her administration, Rivera noted she doesn’t anticipate big changes within the department under her charge.
Priority No. 1, she said, is dealing with a jail-bed shortage that led to state intervention to help free up space. Before leaving office to become Moab police chief, Winder told County Council members they should come up with more than $9 million to staff and operate the Oxbow jail.
While Rivera said she didn’t have a specific plan, she said she would find a way to end the yearslong jail-bed crunch. She said she’d look at officers’ handling of mentally ill suspects, and examining whether the jails have inmates that could be treated elsewhere.
“There are other issues, though, that I’d like to start focusing on such as diversity within law enforcement,” Rivera said. “Also domestic violence laws. Any laws we can improve to keep people safe.”
She told a supportive council she would stress community policing.
“I truly believe that this is the time that we bring the community together with law enforcement to solve problems,” Rivera said.
The council unanimously affirmed the decision by Salt Lake County Democrats who on Saturday picked Rivera from among five candidates.
“This isn’t about the first woman or the first Latina,” Councilwoman Jenny Wilson said. “But I will say, as a woman ... we are underrepresented.”
Council Chairman Steve DeBry, a Republican and UPD chief of policing in Millcreek, also welcomed Rivera as his new leader.
“As chairman of the council and also as UPD chief, you have my full support,” DeBry said.
Rivera has noted she plans to run for a full, four-year term next year when the position is on the ballot.
“I am not a politician,” she said. “I just learn really quick that you go out and you talk to the public. I just want to be their sheriff.”