Although he has been a member of the Utah Highway Patrol for 18 years, including a year as superintendent, Salt Lake City's new chief of police is an unknown quantity for most citizens.

Col. Michael Chabries was named this week to replace retired Chief E.L. "Bud" Willoughby. The appointment must still be approved by the City Council, but no problem is expected in that action.Chabries has a reputation as a likeable personality. And he emphasizes that he is more of a manager, than a street officer. Fine; he won't be out personally solving crimes, anyway.

The real focus of his administration, the new chief says, will be on illegal drugs and all the criminal calamities associated with them, including the corruption of young people.

One of the biggest challenges for Chabries lies within his own department where he faces problems of shaky police morale and dwindling numbers of experienced lawmen.

A new contract with the city does not provide for any merit or cost-of-living raises for police officers. Many of the officers recently took part in a "blue flu" sickout to protest the lack of pay raises and long hours.

With only 290 officers, down from 335 a few years ago, Chabries must fight crime, cope with the drug problems that afflict any city, handle traffic and other law enforcement duties, keep his officers happy, and still have an efficient, proud, professional police force.

All of that will require consumate skill as a manager and experienced lawman. We wish him well in a formidable task.