See, Salt Lake County, consolidating into one police department isn't so hard. Wendover is doing it.
OK, so Wendover, Utah, hasn't had a particularly good year. It faces possible bankruptcy and may be forced to disincorporate. But even though they were forced to do it for economic reasons, Wendover, Utah, and Wendover, Nev., did the right thing by combining police forces. And Salt Lake County would be wise to follow their example.City councils for both Wendovers have approved consolidating their police forces into a single department. The two cities will organize a joint commission to oversee its operations. All that is needed to make it official is for both mayors to sign the agreement. There's more. Once the consolidated police department is functioning smoothly, the two cities will look at possibly consolidating fire services.
This is the kind of approach that needs to be taken as cities and coun-ties face the 21st century. It maximizes resources, and that is particularly important along the Wasatach Front, where several jurisdictions run their own police and fire services.
The police department merger solves a number of problems for the smaller and less wealthy community on the Utah side. Wen-dov-er, Utah, has had trouble keeping a police chief and officers because of a lack of housing and low pay. In fact, half of the 18 police officers on the Nevada side originally worked on the Utah side but left for better pay and work conditions.
That same philosophy needs to be embraced throughout the Salt Lake Valley. The current hodgepodge leads to considerable overlapping of services and considerable confusion regarding the law enforcement relationship between Salt Lake County and the cities in the county. And as the population increases, the problem is only going to get worse.
Which is why one law enforcement agency that covers the entire county makes a lot of sense. Resources and communication would be maximized. They're not now.
Of course, saying that should be done and implementing that proposal are far different things. But it could be done and done well, if vision and cooperation can take precedence over egos.
We understand why many officials would want to hold onto their mostly small-town police departments. Each brings a community flavor to the constituents it serves. However, to continue to function in that manner denies the reality of costly duplications and metropolitan realities that are closing in like a winter inversion.
Growth brings challenges and difficult choices. It also provides opportunities for innovative thinking. Salt Lake County shouldn't wait for a similar economic crisis to force it into action.