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The City Journals

A new police chief for a new police department

Jan 29, 2019 02:40PM ● By Mariden Williams

Mayor Trent Staggs congratulates Don Hutson on his appointment as chief of police in Riverton. (Riverton City Communications)

By Mariden Williams | mariden.w@mycityjournals.com

A new chief of police was selected to oversee the formation of the soon-to-be Riverton Police Department: Don Hutson, who has served as the chief of the Unified Police Department’s Holladay precinct for the last four years. Hutson was selected from a pool of nearly 60 candidates and began work as Riverton’s chief of police in January. 

“The opportunity of starting a police department from the ground up is something that I couldn’t pass up,” Hutson said. “I look forward to creating a department that proactively serves the Riverton community, places high value on our officers and provides the best law enforcement service for our citizens.”

Riverton officials decided to hire a new police chief following their October 2018 decision to part ways with the UPD in favor of creating an in-house police department. The department split-up had been in the works since July 2018, when the Riverton City Council and UPD board members started having serious differences of opinion on the matter of taxpayer fund distribution.

“The decision to form our own police department has been a difficult one for us,” said Councilman Sheldon Stewart. “Ultimately, the decision was made based on what direction could provide the best level of service in our city at the best cost. The move to create our own police department allows more Riverton taxpayer dollars to be invested in law enforcement service right here in our own community.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Don Hutson as the new chief of police in Riverton,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. “He brings with him the experience, skill set and network needed to set up a thriving police department. I have no doubt he will serve the citizens of our city exceptionally well in this role.”

Hutson has been Holladay’s precinct chief since 2015, but he has also served in a variety of roles with UPD and the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, including being a professional standards division commander, investigations division commander, media services unit administrator and public information officer. Additionally, Hutson has been a drug enforcement task force officer, narcotics unit detective, gang unit detective, SWAT team member and patrol deputy. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in business administration and finance from Utah State University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

“Now that a chief has been selected, we look forward to getting very aggressive in putting our new department together,” Staggs said. “We invite the best and brightest police officers from around Utah to consider applying for service within the Riverton Police Department when positions become available over the next several months, including those who have provided exceptional service to our community in the past.”

Riverton officials have lofty expectations for their in-the-works police department. 

“I’m confident Chief Hutson will help us achieve our goal of becoming the best police department in the state, bar none,” said City Manager Konrad Hildebrandt. 

UPD offers many "pooled services” to its member cities: things such as K-9 units, narcotics divisions, SWAT teams and child abduction response teams that are very nice to have when you need them but hard to justify paying for full time for a small city with a relatively low crime rate. 

UPD, because it serves many cities, can justify paying for such things, and cities that contract with UPD have access to these pooled services on an as-needed basis. But these same pooled services are what drove the contract cost up so high that Riverton officials balked.

"Everybody says, ‘Well, we don't use all the services that Unified has; we don't have the crime rate; we don't have the problems,’” said UPD Officer Jason Allbrid at a town hall meeting back in August 2018. “Well, I don't crash my car every day, but I still have insurance. I like the insurance that UPD has offered." 

It is anticipated that the Riverton Police Department will take over full law enforcement service in Riverton from Unified Police Department in July 2019.