Salt Lake City's new police chief is a sound manager and budgeter who is good with people and cops on the street, says Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis.
"Lastly, I like him, and I think you'll like him, too," the mayor told reporters Wednesday afternoon as he introduced Utah Highway Patrol Col. Mike Chabries - his appointment to be Salt Lake City police chief.Chabries, superintendent at UHP, will replace retired Chief E.L. "Bud" Willoughby Monday but must meet City Council approval before being formally installed as head of the 290-member police force.
The new chief will manage the department's officers well, work closely with the community and successfully administer the department under tight fiscal conditions because of his strong administrative background with the UHP, DePaulis said.
Both DePaulis and Chabries were quick to acknowledge morale and budgetary problems that have sent officers on informational pickets and infected them July 6 with the "blue flu."
"The blue flu epidemic recently experienced certainly reflects that there is a problem with morale," Chabries said. Decreases in manpower, long hours among street cops and lack of pay raises in the recent past are symptoms.
"But I think you need to remember that manpower issues and the pay issues are economically driven issues; when the economy gets better, I sense those issues are going to be resolved," he said.
Chabries was selected from a field of four finalists recommended to the mayor by a nine-member citizen panel earlier this month. He won the seat over two out-of-state candidates and acting police chief Ed Johnson.
Starting as a UHP trooper 18 years ago, Chabries, 43, worked his way up through the ranks to colonel. After a stint as director of administrative services for the state's Department of Public Safety in 1985, Chabries returned to the UHP in 1986.
Chabries is named as one of 17 defendants in a lawsuit alleging the UHP, while he was a lieutenant colonel, was negligent in investigating complaints of improper conduct in connection with Trooper Ernest Wilcock, who plead guilty to sexual abuse.
Wilcock made sexual advances toward women he pulled over while on duty and once fired his pistol at a women fleeing his attacks in his patrol car.
Chabries would not comment on the matter, saying the lawsuit was still pending. But DePaulis said he was unaware of the lawsuit and pointed out that he, too, has been the subject of litigation.
"It (Chabries' lawsuit) was not a part of the consideration" to appoint Chabries as chief, DePaulis said.
The new chief called himself a manager, not a street officer, and stressed that he would be spending little time in the field, concentrating his efforts on a managerial level.
"I'm not sure, ladies and gentlemen, that I could even investigate a traffic accident," he said. "The mayor did not appoint a chief investigator, he appointed a chief of police."
Chabries said he had no specific priorities in mind on the day of his appointment. "I intend to start looking at the Salt Lake City Police Department on Monday," he said.
However, drugs and preventing the city's youth from getting involved with them would be focal points of his administration, he said.
The Salt Lake City Police Association will be meeting Thursday to consider a new contract agreement with the city, which Chabries said that would present one of his greatest administrative challenges.
The contract, which contains no raises or increases in manpower, "clearly will present the most serious problems," he said.
Chabries' appointment will appear on a City Council agenda soon to be considered for approval. "I can't see any problem with him being approved," Council Chairman Tom Godfrey said.
Johnson, whom DePaulis and Chabries praised, will return to his role as major and Chabries will be replaced at the UHP by Col. Herb Katz.