Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Officer Jeffery Potter (left) and Cpl. Heath Lowry respond to a hit-and-run accident Monday.

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — After months of planning and preparation, the Cottonwood Heights Police Department officially went on active duty Monday.

At midnight, the city's new police department officially took over patrolling its boundaries from the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, which the city had previously hired for police service.

"It was very exciting. It was really kind of a historic event," said Cottonwood Heights police spokesman Beau Babka. "It was nice for everyone after the last month who had been training and preparing and how hard they worked. (The transition) went really smooth. That's a credit to the chief."

Officers patrolled the streets and made a few traffic stops. But the department's first official dispatch from the Valley Emergency Communications Center didn't come until 1 a.m. Officers were called to check on an alarm that went off at Circuit City. The call was responded to and cleared in three minutes, Babka said.

Babka noted the three-minute response time was important, referring to an incident in November of 2007 that became a point of contention between the city and the sheriff's office and ultimately helped prompt Cottonwood Heights to go ahead with its plan to create its own department.

In that incident, burglars got away with $100,000 worth of computer equipment. Cottonwood Heights contended the sheriff's office did not have deputies available to respond in a timely manner. The sheriff's office argued it wouldn't have made a difference anyway because the alarm company didn't call until after the burglary and the suspects were gone, thus making it a lower priority call than several active situations that were also going on at the time.

In January, the City Council voted to break away from the sheriff's office and create its own police force.

Officers had a briefing with Chief Robby Russo, Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore and members of the City Council Sunday night, a few hours before their first shifts began.

"The chief talked about how everyone was picked to be here, how everyone wanted to be here, how the city wanted its own police department and to go out and be the best police officers they could possibly be," Babka said.

The new Cottonwood Heights police force consists of officers from nearly every department in the valley and one officer who came from New Mexico, he said.


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