Riverton swears in 35 officers for its new standalone police department

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Riverton police Officer and K-9 handler Spencer Hiatt introduces Titan, a police dog, during introductions of the thirty-five officers that make up the city's new police department during a swearing-in ceremony at Riverton High School on Tuesday June 25, 2019.

Riverton • New Police Chief Don Hutson held back tears as he swore in 35 officers to the city’s newly-created police department Tuesday night.

“These officers are 100% focused on public safety for the citizens of Riverton with no distractions,” Hutson said at the ceremonial swearing in Tuesday evening. “We have all been part of law enforcement and public safety for many years.”

The city has traditionally contracted its law enforcement with the Unified Police Department, but officials felt the services they were getting for the money invested in UPD was no longer adequate for the growing city.

Mayor Trent Staggs said many low-crime cities in Salt Lake County, including Riverton, felt they were paying too much.

“What we had here, we didn’t have 100% of,” he said, adding that UPD officers in Riverton were often dispatched to other areas and were unable to respond to Riverton calls quickly.

Riverton paid $5.6 million to the Unified Police Department in 2018 for 26 officers delegated to the city, said Staggs. This year the city was expected to pay a 6% increase, and although the city’s population has grown by about 10,000 during the last several years, Staggs said the city never saw an increase in officers assigned to the area.

“That was a level of concern,” Staggs said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “We recognized that our cost could go up even from the limited amount of coverage.”

The City Council began considering the decision to create its own police department two years ago and took the first step in leaving last July, when they were notified of the cost increase, and after conducting a feasibility study which revealed he cost-effectiveness of starting their own police department, decided to finalize their decision in October.

“This is a great move for taxpayers, not just for financial purposes,” Staggs said. “There will be a noticeable increase in police presence within our community.”

The city and he neighboring municipality of Herriman have filed a lawsuit claiming they owed more money from their separation with UPD, an estimated $300,000 apiece.

Though the city will increase spending from $5.6 million to $5.8 million, it will also see a nine-officer increase, and officers will be focused entirely on Riverton. Officers transferring from UPD will receive a 10-12% increase in salary.

“That, to me, is very telling,” Staggs said. “They absolutely deserve the best.”

Hutson read individual biographies for each of the 35 new officers, detailing their backgrounds in law enforcement, all within the Wasatch Front.

“The reason we wanted to read all of these biographies for all of these officers is to emphasize to all of you and to the public that we are in good hands,” Hutson said. “There is not a specialty law enforcement job that is not represented in this group, they’ve seen just about everything you can imagine.”

The new police force will officially begin its duties at midnight, July 1.