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Police to provide additional security at West Valley Library

Mar 13, 2018 05:04PM ● Published by Travis Barton

West Valley City Council unanimously approved an agreement that will see two officers assigned to the West Valley Library. The city will be reimbursed by Salt Lake County. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

In an effort to increase safety at the local West Valley Library—part of the county library system—the West Valley City Council unanimously approved an agreement between the city and Salt Lake County to provide officers specifically assigned to the library. 

City Attorney Eric Bunderson explained to the city council in January that the county was considering placing Unified Police officers at the library as extra security, but the city felt strongly that it should be West Valley police officers “since it’s so close and next to the police department.” 

“We negotiated this deal with them where we would commit two officers to be assigned there and the county would reimburse us,” Bunderson said. A supervising officer would receive $60/hour while a non-supervisory officer receives $50/hour. 

The West Valley Library (2880 W. 3650 South) sits near city hall, the police department and West Valley Central TRAX Station. 

The agreement is in place for two years which may be renewed by a written amendment. Maximum length the agreement can reach is the end of 2022. Hunter Library was not included in the agreement.

Then Interim Police Chief Colleen Nolen (now Police Chief Colleen Jacobs) explained that the officers would be assigned by the department’s secondary overtime sign-up. Officers tasked to the library are free to respond to higher priority threats in other locations when necessary, according to the agreement. 

Liz Sollis, communications manager for the county library system, said the reasoning for the extra officers are safety and to encourage positive relations with the officers. 

She didn’t describe there being an uptick in crime as a reason for additional security, but that their libraries see a lot of kids come to the library. 

“Not surprisingly kids are sometimes rambunctious and they get into trouble,” Sollis said, adding occasionally fines and verbal reprimands don’t always stop them. 

“Really, the idea is that with an officer presence, it provides an extra level of safety and security for all of our customers,” she said. 

It’s also not uncommon, she said, for public places to have close relationships with local law enforcement. “Libraries are one of the very best at community gathering places because they’re open to everybody so we just want people to know they’re welcome at the county library.”

Branches in Kearns and Magna also have extra security with Unified officers. Sollis explained that other branches like South Jordan and West Jordan are next to police stations or a justice court. Officers aren’t assigned to the libraries, but will occasionally walk the perimeter. 

“There’s often an officer present in a lot of our branches, but I would say it’s more a sign of an engaged community than a sign of increased enforcement in general,” she said. 

The benefits go further than safety, according to Sollis. A favorite moment of hers was witnessing an officer at the Kearns branch with a book in his pocket as he stood outside talking with kids as the entered and exited. 

“It warmed my heart,” she recalled. 

There was also an instance in the library’s 2016 annual report at the Magna branch where a police officer, Hank Johnson, and the branch manager, Trish Hull, assisted a 29-year-old homeless man named Hack. Johnson suggested Hack pursue a GED. Hull bought Hack a study guide while Johnson paid for the test. 

“It’s relationships,” Sollis reiterated. “It’s showing these people that the community cares about them and, of course in this story, it’s an officer who went the extra mile to help this person have a better outcome.”

She later added, “It’s always nice to let people know there’s a little extra security and attention being paid to their experience.”

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