We applaud all those public officials who ran for Salt Lake County sheriff for their willingness to serve the public.
We especially applaud the selection and confirmation of Rosie Rivera as Salt Lake County’s new sheriff who will fill an important void in the county’s law-enforcement landscape and who has the potential to do great things. Rivera is not just the state’s first woman, and also its first Latina, to serve as a sheriff, but she comes to the position with exceptional qualifications.
Her background could also be an important factor in building much-needed trust among people within the county’s growing Latino population, which accounted for 17 percent of the county’s population in the 2010 Census. Occasionally stigmatized by those unreasonably opposed to immigration, some in this community may be reluctant or afraid to contact local law enforcement when the need arises. Rivera has a unique opportunity to establish a relationship that will bring greater levels of safety.
Rivera’s distinguished career in law enforcement, however, is what qualifies her for the job and was undoubtedly the deciding factor in her nomination and recent confirmation.
Her leadership, of course, will be tested early. The job of county sheriff likely never has faced so many urgent challenges, led mainly by the crisis of drug abuse and violent crime among the homeless who congregate near the Road Home Shelter on Rio Grande Street.
Her predecessor, former Sheriff Jim Winder, was a strong voice who advocated several radical policy shifts in that area, including the establishment of campgrounds for the homeless and the tracking of license plate numbers. He ran into difficulties getting other jurisdictions, most notably Salt Lake City, to take his plans seriously. Ultimately, however, his efforts influenced what now has become a state-led, multi-jurisdictional effort to clean up the area.
Rivera needs to forge relationships with other law enforcement and political leaders in the state so that these efforts won’t disintegrate into turf battles.
Yet Rivera appears well-suited to the task. She comes to the job with a long history of firsts. She was the first female chief of a Unified Police Department precinct, taking over responsibility for the Riverton area. She was the first female member of the important Metro Gang Unit. In her 24 years with the department, she has led both the violent crimes and sexual assault units and has served as the department’s spokeswoman.
While that last item may seem a small thing, experience with the media ought to give Rivera the background and confidence to ably communicate with the public and to advocate for her positions and initiatives. Transparency is vital to effective law enforcement.
She speaks eloquently about the need to ensure equal justice, equal rights and equal opportunities. Indeed, law enforcement has the responsibility to keep the peace with equity so those ideals may be realized. She also advocates for community policing, which implies deputies will become more familiar with the people they serve.
These are important principles that can preserve peace and enhance prosperity in the County's environs.