Unified policing in Salt Lake County is finally going to happen.
The Salt Lake County Council voted Tuesday to move forward to create a new police district with Sheriff Jim Winder at the helm.
A unified police force in the county is not a new idea, but it hasn't gone anywhere in years past.
It nearly happened in 2006, with budgets approved and plans under way. But a month later, the plan tanked, as local mayors decided they wouldn't have enough control of administrative issues.
The county is trying to buck the trend of cities bolting from their contracts with the sheriff and starting their own police departments. Four cities remain on contract, but three cities already have left, leaving county officials in the lurch.
If any more cities end their contracts with the sheriff for police services, residents in the unincorporated areas will shoulder too much of the cost to pay for policing. Councilman Randy Horiuchi said he regrets a unified police force wasn't in place sooner.
"Had we had this in place back then, we wouldn't have lost the cities that we have lost," Horiuchi said.
The sheriff had to make some concessions to get the unified policing idea back on the table.
Winder will give up control of all financial and policy decisions to an administrative control board made up of the contracted cities Holladay, Herriman, Bluffdale and Riverton and three county officials.
If Winder doesn't like the board's decision, he can veto, but the board can overturn the veto with a two-thirds vote. The sheriff will retain control of the administrative side of things.
Earlier this month, the mayors of all the contract cities agreed in principle to pursue the police district idea.
Councilman Mark Crockett was the lone vote against moving forward with the police district idea. Although he is in favor of a unified police force, he believes locking Millcreek residents in a police district will take away their option of possibly annexing into another city or incorporating into a city of their own in the future.
If a district is created, that will lock in the law enforcement boundaries. That way, if Millcreek ever becomes a city, it couldn't have its own police department.
"I think it is imperative to find a way to have regional policing," Crockett said. "I can't support the district concept at this time on behalf of the residents in my area."
Winder said the new unified police district could be up and running by next year.
Funding questions, however, still need to be resolved. And that will take a lot of work, Council Chairman Michael Jensen said."The devil is in the details," Jensen said. "This is not an issue we're going to solve today. It's going to take us, realistically, through March."
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