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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Officer Joseph Tanner kisses his son, Odin, who is being held by Tanner's wife, Nichelle, prior to Herriman Police Department’s inaugural swearing-in ceremony at Copper Mountain Middle School in Herriman on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018.

HERRIMAN — Herriman leaders formalized their separation from the Unified Police Department on Thursday by swearing in 35 police officers to the city's new police department.

The swearing-in at Copper Mountain Middle School came before the Herriman Police Department is expected to officially begin service with its first radio call scheduled for Saturday at 11:59 p.m.

"This is truly a historical moment," Herriman Mayor David Watts said in an interview before the ceremony.

In addition to the 35 officers, Herriman also swore in five civilian members.

Herriman's separation from Unified Police Department has "been a journey for quite some time," Watts said, and a decision that came earlier this year in an effort to get Herriman more bang for its buck when it comes to paying for law enforcement.

"What this is going to mean for our residents is we're going to see an immediate increase in the number of police officers in our streets and in our schools," the mayor said. "And all of that's going to be at no increase in tax to our residents."

City officials estimated residents were overpaying Unified to the tune of $2 million per year for its police officers.

"What really drove us to this decision is that we could provide the same service level we were getting from Unified for $3 million a year, yet they were charging us nearly $5 million," Henderson said. "We'll go from 18, 19 officers from Unified for that price tag (to) nearly double our actual law enforcement for the same cost."

The new taxing district that will fund the police force, Herriman City Safety Enforcement, will collect tax revenue at the same rate as Unified's taxing entity, he said.

"Now we control the money" and are "getting what we're paying for," he said.

"We only see an enormous benefit to taking this step," he added.

Some, including Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, have said Herriman and other cities' withdrawal from Unified's service are a mistake. But city leaders said they made the decision for the benefit of the city.

"Doing what's best for your city is never a mistake," Watts said.

"It's our job and role as elected leaders to always look out for the best interests of our community, and the decision to start our own police department was the decision to do the best we can for our residents regardless of who is providing the service," he said.

Other cities, including Cottonwood Heights and Riverton, have also joined Herriman in leaving Unified's service area. For Herriman, it was a move to create a more efficient and financially effective police force, Henderson said.

"With a fast-growing community, our needs are changing dynamically, and we need to have a little more control over our law enforcement," the councilman said.

Herriman Police Chief Troy Carr was among the 35 law enforcement officers sworn in Thursday. In an interview before the ceremony, Carr said he's excited "about the amount of talent we were able to retain."

"What we've really done is build a start team that I believe is going to be the best police department in the region," Carr said.

Of the 35 officers, about two-thirds were from Unified's police force, Carr said, and the rest from other areas along the Wasatch Front, as well as one officer from California. He said he was pleased to see over 150 applicants apply for Herriman's openings.

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Knowing other law enforcement agencies along the Wasatch Front have struggled with police recruitment, Carr said Herriman positioned itself to be a competitive agency by offering a starting pay of $22 an hour, which is slightly higher than most other starting wages in the Salt Lake Valley.

Carr said having a force of 35 police officers will help Herriman have a denser and more present police force.

"We think that will lead to a better presence and ultimately a better identity of our law enforcement," the new chief said.