COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS Former Salt Lake County Undersheriff Beau Babka today was sworn in as the latest member of the Cottonwood Heights Police Department.
In a small ceremony in the lobby of the department's new headquarters, near 1300 East and 7200 South, Babka raised his right hand, repeated the oath of office and was handed his new badge and a black ball cap with "CHPD" in white letters. After the ceremony, Babka received a round of applause from the handful of officers who were present, as well as Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore.
"I'm very grateful," Babka said. "I'm looking forward to contributing as much as I can. I'm very excited."
Cottonwood Heights' new police department doesn't officially begin until Sept. 1. However, final preparations are underway at department headquarters, where lockers, computers, bulletproof glass and other safety features are being installed and brought on-line in preparation for next month's opening.
Babka was hired in a specialist position. He will have a variety of duties, including legislative liaison; a resource officer at Butler Middle School, where he will teach DARE classes; and public information officer, providing information to the media.
"He's a great teacher. We all know that," Cullimore said.
Babka left the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office in July after less than a year as the sheriff's No. 2 man. Although Babka's departure was called a "mutual release" and a voluntary resignation, some people who were familiar with the situation, but wished to remain anonymous, said Babka and Sheriff Jim Winder had a falling out and that Babka was pressured into resigning.
The chief of the new Cottonwood Heights Police Department is Robby Russo, who also was involved in controversy with Winder. Russo was suspended from the sheriff's office in July 2007 for undisclosed reasons and later unwillingly transferred from the Cottonwood Heights precinct to the Kearns/Magna precinct.
Russo worked for the sheriff's office for more than 20 years. He was appointed as chief of the Cottonwood Heights department in February.
Cullimore said the city is trying to fill its staff with the best available people and is not trying to create an "anti-Winder squad." Using a sports analogy, he said the new Cottonwood Heights department will be like the all-star team of police officers in the valley.
"It's like an expansion draft. We went out to all the teams and did some cherry-picking. We were very fortunate Beau was available," he said.
Patrol officers alone will have an average 12 years of experience, and administrators of the new department will have an average of 20 years' experience each, he said. Cullimore further noted that the new department includes officers from departments across the valley and not just former sheriff's employees.Under the agreement reached between Babka and Winder, Babka was not allowed to talk about his resignation or former employer.