A proposal to disband the city's police department was withdrawn Tuesday because it was unpopular with residents and didn't save the $1.1 million each year that was anticipated.
Councilman Paul Henderson withdrew the proposal one day after a report by city staff showed contracting with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's department for all police services would save the city $25,155 the first year and $157,936 in subsequent years.Henderson called a press conference Jan. 3 to announce he had discussed a contract with Sheriff Pete Hayward. While the savings didn't add up the way he hoped, Henderson said the city staff's report grossly misrepresented the financial impacts of a change.
Henderson said the real savings to the city, while not the $1.1 million he hoped, still would have been $632,000 to $800,000.
Henderson said City Manager Ron Olson has been opposed to the idea of contracting the city's police services all along. "I don't know what motivated Ron to pad (the report) like this," Henderson said. "I have some real questions about it."
Public reaction to the proposal was another reason Henderson withdrew the proposal. "The groundswell of support for our public safety employees has been outstanding," Henderson said. "Petitions have been circulated in their support."
Mayor Kristin Lambert said she received more calls in support of the police department than she did over a controversial bond proposal that failed last fall. "The vast majority of these people were residents who have had first-hand experience with our officers," she said. "We have every reason to have the utmost confidence in our department."
A number of police officers have said the proposal to disband the department, and the public way it was handled, has caused morale in the department to hit rock bottom. Photocopies of a recruiting advertisement from the police department in Las Vegas have been posted about one of the police stations, and a higher than usual number of officers have applications in with other departments.
Lt. Ken McGuire, public safety interim director, said morale problems should heal quickly now that officers know their work will be business as usual.
The proposal, if continued further, would also have interfered with an ongoing process of selecting a new public safety director. The department has been without a chief since Kal O. Farr resigned his post Jan. 1.
About 50 people applied for the chief's position as of the Tuesday deadline, Olson said. The process of selecting a new chief can continue now that the city knows it will need one.
The city is also in the process of adding 11 officers to the force to provide security for Soviet INF treaty inspectors who will be living in West Jordan beginning in March or April. The issue over who would be providing police services in West Jordan hadn't yet become an interference to the Soviet contract, but it would have been if it continued much longer, Olson said.