Kudos to Gunnison and Centerfield for unification of police departments

Kudos to Gunnison and Centerfield for unification of police departments



Gunnison City and Centerfield City have set a good example for the rest of the county with the finalization of their interlocal policing agreement, which effectively unifies their two police forces to create the Gunnison Valley Police Department (GVPD).

The Gunnison Valley is no stranger to cooperation. As Brett McCall, interim police chief for the new department, puts it, “We share everything under the Gunnison Valley umbrella. Schools, doctors, a fire department, veterinarians—you name it, we share it.”

The unified Gunnison Valley Fire Department and its accompanying $1.4 million fire station is model of valleywide cooperation, with every community, including unincorporated Axtell, helping pay off Utah Community Impact Board (CIB) bonds used to build the fire station.

As the Messenger covered development of the policing agreement, we witnessed the challenges elected officials faced and overcame. We saw the looks of frustration on the officials’ faces when things didn’t go smoothly.

Some of the officials, such former Gunnison  City police chief Blane Jensen, have been pushing for a unified force for nearly two decades. What matters now, though, is that the first round of unification has been achieved.

Jensen and McCall were directly involved in the drafting of the agreement, along with Gunnison City Attorney Mandy Larsen and Centerfield City Attorney Steve Styler.

The city council and mayors from both municipalities weighed in throughout the process, offering their opinions, advice and majority votes to move the agreement forward. Public hearings were held to gather feedback from residents of each community.

The officials did not falter when Mayfield residents voted not to participate (much to the chagrin of  Mayor John Christensen) because they preferred to save a few bucks in the short-term.

Just when everything looked like it was a done deal, a new variable surfaced when Gunnison City’ Police Chief Trent Halliday was diagnosed with cancer. (Another example of the Gunnison Valley spirit of cooperation can be found in our front page story about the Refuse-to- Lose, Trent-Halliday benefit.) In the face of uncertainty, the authors of the agreement kept moving forward.

Although the unification agreement has been approved by both the Gunnison and Centerfield city councils, there is a lot of work ahead.

That includes forming the GVPD governing board, adopting policies, selecting a chief, hiring new officers and, most importantly, maintaining the support of residents.

Looking out to the horizon, we hope that in time, the other communities in the valley will join in the operation. A single police force with an adequate number of officers policing the whole valley makes imminently more sense than a two-city force supplemented by sheriff’s deputies driving from Manti, or wherever they happen to be in the county when a call comes in.

Meanwhile, kudos to Blane Jensen, Brett McCall, the city attorneys and the two city councils for taking the vital first step. And best of luck to them in the work now in front of them.