Centerfield gives ‘broad approval’ for interlocal police force proposal
A proposed interlocal agreement between three communities in the Gunnison Valley has been drafted and, at least in one community, put to a public hearing.
On Wednesday, Aug. 3, residents in Centerfield gathered to express opinions about a proposal to unify the police forces of that community with Gunnison and Mayfield. Centerfield Police Chief Brett McCall said the proposal was met with broad approval in Centerfield.
Gunnison will be holding a similar public hearing in the next few weeks. Trent Halliday, the police chief in that city, said he believes that the proposal will be met with approval there, too.
McCall and Halliday attended a city council meeting in Mayfield on Wednesday, Aug. 10 to discuss with the council exactly what the interlocal agreement will entail.
Halliday told the council, “Both of our departments have responded to emergency calls in Mayfield and that will continue, regardless.”
He went on to explain how the agreement would affect Mayfield, and how much coverage the town would be getting.
According to the agreement, which is still in the rough draft stages, the new unified police force would have, at minimum, two shifts, seven days a week, with at least one officer proactively patrolling and being visible.
Halliday explained to the council that in smaller communities there is more opportunity to commit crime because of the lack of dedicated law enforcement presence in the area. Halliday feels that having a unified police force may help crack down on petty crime in the area.
The agreement does not, however, state specific times in which the officer would be patrolling each area, something that Halliday believes will act as a further deterrent because police could show up at any time.
“We just work all the areas as they need worked,” Halliday said. “There is no sense in putting strict time limits on it.”
“Boundaries and borders do not exist in law enforcement,” he said. “Wherever our calls are, we go, and we know our communities well enough that we have a good baseline with how to police each area.”
Mayor John Christensen, who invited the two chiefs, reiterated the point to his council. Christensen, who boasts 40 years of law enforcement experience, said, “Law enforcement is a brotherhood. If an officer needs help, we respond.”
Both Halliday and McCall cautioned the council that the solution isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix for the communities. The needs of each community will be taken into consideration.
The unified force, if approved, will be governed by a seven person board composed of the mayors of each community and citizens who reside in each town, along with the new police chief for the unified force.
McCall spoke passionately about the unification, something he believes will serve to further quell crime in Sanpete County.
“This is what we think is right for Gunnison Valley right now,” he said. “We know that one of us, or each of us, may be out of a job soon (as chief), but this is the right thing to do.”
Councilwoman Malynda Bjerregaard, who sent out a poll among constituents in Mayfield last month, disagreed. She said the poll she conducted revealed residents of Mayfield are strongly opposed to unification.
Bjerregaard said current law enforcement methods work “just fine.” She asked McCall and Halliday to explain any differences in coverage between the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office, which currently provides police coverage for Mayfield, and the proposed unified police force.
“You don’t get much out of the county,” McCall responded. “I worked for the county for ten years. We would react to Mayfield, but we would not patrol here.”
McCall assured the council that it is not the intent of officers to swarm Mayfield and write tickets for every possible offense. He explained, “It’s an education process. That’s just law enforcement.”
A public hearing to discuss the interlocal agreement has been scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. at the Mayfield City Hall. Christensen encouraged residents of Mayfield to participate and have their voices heard.
Halliday and McCall said they would attend the meeting.