Becoming police chief is an easy
move for Aaron Broomhead—
he already lives in Ephraim
New chief has worked for SLCPD for almost 18 years
By Suzanne Dean
Dec. 14, 2017
EPHRAIM—One thing that made it easy for Aaron Broomhead to accept an opportunity to be police chief in Ephraim was that he didn’t have to move.
At the time he was hired, Broomhead, 40, had worked for the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLPD) for almost 18 years. His first day on the job in Ephraim was Monday, Dec. 4. He was sworn in before the Ephraim City Council on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
But Broomhead and his wife, Janika, and their three children, had actually moved to Sanpete County two years earlier. They lived in rented homes in Mt. Pleasant and Spring City before building a new home in Ephraim. All the while, he continued working for SLPD.
“I was an extreme commuter,” he says. Each morning, he drove to Provo, took Frontrunner to Salt Lake City, and in the evening, made same trip in reverse. His commute took about 4 hours and 30 minutes per day.
The new chief explains that he grew up in Riverton in Salt Lake County back when it was a small, almost rural, community. When he was a teenager, Janika, the daughter of Dr. Jan and Betty Jonson, lived down the street. Then Dr. Jonson joined the staff of Gunnison Valley Hospital, and the Jonsons moved to Ephraim.
Later in their lives, Aaron and Janika got married, and bought a home in Riverton. “Our plan all along was to come back (to Sanpete County) after I retired at 20 years…Every time I visited my in-laws, I fell in love with the place,” Broomhead says. Urbanization in Riverton, including plans to build a Trax line 75 yards from their home, accelerated their plans.
Broomhead says he didn’t start out to be a police officer. As a young adult, he planned to become a pharmacist. He got his associate’s degree at Salt Lake Community College and was planning to go to a university for a pharmacy degree. Meanwhile, he was working as a pharmacy technician.
One of his customers was a Salt Lake County sheriff’s deputy. One day, the deputy asked Broomhead if he’d like to go on a ride-along in a sheriff’s car. He said yes.
“Within minutes, we were in a pursuit,” he says. Based on that glimpse of the excitement of police work, he changed his career plans. He put himself through the police academy and was hired as an officer at Oxbow, the overflow Salt Lake County jail at the time. A few months later, he got on with SLPD.
Like nearly all new officers, he started in the Patrol Division, where he worked nights patrolling and responding to calls on the west side of Salt Lake City. He stayed on with the Patrol Division for almost five years
“You get to know the community, you get to know the community leaders,” he says. “I stayed west for the entire time and got to know it really well.”
In 2005, he transferred to the Gang Suppression Unit. “It was exciting,” he says. “It was high-risk, high-intensity patrol.” When a shooting or other gang-related incident happened, his unit was called in to investigate. An important part of the work was coordinating with other agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
While still with the gang unit, Broomhead tried out and was accepted as a backup member of the SWAT team. (SWAT stands for special weapons and tactics.) And in about 2009, he switched to working for SWAT full-time.
That job involved serving high-risk search and arrest warrants, especially where the target of the warrant had a weapons history. The team also responded to scenes where a subject had barricaded himself or herself into a building, or where someone was threatening suicide.
While Broomhead was on the SWAT team, some police departments around the country started using what is called “explosive breaching” to get access to dangerous locations.
The idea is to use a mathematically measured volume of explosives to blow out a door or part of a wall without hurting the people inside. Broomhead was put in charge of the Salt Lake City explosive breaching program and ultimately became the “lead breacher.”
In about 2015, Broomhead decided it was time to take stock. “I’d had a fairly fast-paced career. I had never worked a day shift. I had never had a weekend off—I was always on call. I started to feel it was time to transition to a little more normal life.”
That’s when he shifted to the SLPD training unit. Besides delivering training, he was put in charge of what is known as the Career Path program. Officers can apply each year to participate. If accepted, they can receive extra pay for training or related achievements—everything from meeting high physical fitness standards to completing a college degree.
About 350 of the city’s 450 officers do apply. Broomhead evaluated the applications, accepted officers into the program, tracked their training and calculated their extra pay.
Broomhead’s present family took root back when he and Janika lived on the same street in Riverton. They hung out together. “It was a boyfriend-girlfriend type of thing,” he says. Then Janika moved.
Both of them had first marriages that didn’t work out. Then, “out of the blue, we met, we reconnected, and we’ve been married for 18 years now,” he says. “She’s put up with my career ups and downs. She’s kept me sane.”
They have a daughter who is 21, another daughter at Manti High School and a son at Ephraim Elementary.
Janika has had her own career as an elementary school teacher. She currently teaches in the STARS reading program at Ephraim Elementary School and is working on a master’s in school counseling through USU Extension.
Reflecting on his new job as Ephraim police chief, Broomhead says, “It’s a big change, but I’m excited about it…The same reasons that attracted me to live down here attracted me to work here and be part of the community.”
Salt Lake City is so big that policing becomes fragmented, he says. An officer takes a call, gathers facts, writes a report and turns the case over to the detective unit. “It’s difficult to see the positive effect of what you’re doing.”
In a place like Ephraim, “guys are working a case from beginning to end. You can definitely have a positive impact on the community down here.”