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The City Journals

Midvale Police Chief, residents share thoughts on state of police work in the city

Jun 29, 2020 10:41AM ● By Erin Dixon

Midvale Unified Police Department Chief Randy Thomas addresses City Council in June about police policies.

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Atlanta police chief steps down after shooting.” “Salt Lake City protesters call for defunding police, not kneeling with them.” “Black Lives Matter protests across the US and world.”

Such headlines from across the country tell us that the relationship between police officers and residents is strained. 

UPD on protocol and professionalism

Midvale Unified Police Department (UPD) Chief Randy Thomas said, “UPD was one of the largest contributors to the Salt Lake City agents downtown [on May 30]. The stories of having rocks, bricks, water bottles thrown, in essence being assaulted the entire time. Not only were multiple officers hurt but multiple citizens were hurt. Incredible damage to property. 

“One question is regarding our training and our protocol and professionalism: UPD training does evolve. It looks for opportunity to create new and resourceful training,” he said.

“I look forward to improvement not only to the tensions that are out there but looking in the mirror of our individual police department policy, our protocol. We want to recognize what’s out there and improve ourselves.”

“Any time we don’t, I think we’ve failed,” Thomas said. 

Regarding police body cameras in Midvale, Thomas said, “Twenty-one out of our 30 officers in Midvale do [have body cameras].” Why doesn’t every officer have one?

“It’s not a high cost up front, but...to actually store the data and when people request the body camera footage, we have to look through it, redact [excess footage], and release it in a timely fashion...is labor intensive. There’s obviously storage for the video, it’s improved over the years but it’s still pricey. 

“The company that sells the camera requires a license for every single camera from the private vendor to use their product. It’s an annual fee, $948 per year, [per camera]. 

“I think we should all have them or none of us have them. We put a camera on [our two motor officers] because even on citations they constantly, it provides an accurate record. The rest it’s been a little bit more random, we have not targeted any officers due to misconduct or suspicion of misconduct,” Thomas said. 

The Midvale Precinct has also been receiving flowers and treats in the past few weeks from grateful residents. “We’ve never had so many doughnuts delivered in my entire life. I can’t eat another doughnut,” Thomas said. 

How residents feel 

But what about Midvale? What about the city’s police officers who respond to your calls? What headlines come from Midvale residents? 

The following comments are from Midvale residents (collected from the Midvale Residents Facebook page) and Midvale Unified Police Department Chief. 

Resident Heidi Lins, who is white, said, “They always come to our block party and act like one of the neighbors, friendly, helpful, and one of ‘us.’" 

“We were pulled over, my teenager was just on a permit, because our insurance hadn't reported on a new vehicle. The officer made sure to ask all the right questions and stopped to understand what we were talking about. We had donated an old vehicle, but kept the plates, and the DMV said it might take a couple days to hit the system... which it did. Never, ever had a concern about our police service,” Lins said. 

Resident Renee Peterson, who is black, said, “My son was chased home one day by some kids. They said “Hey man, I like your Js’ (Michael Jordan shoes).’ He said, ‘Thank you’ and they said, ‘Well, give them here n-----.’ And he just took out running. This was in 2016. He came home, told me what happened. It took forever for the police to come out. When they finally came out they really weren’t interested in what I was saying, they didn’t write down the description of the car. ‘OK, thank you, we hear your concerns. We’re glad he’s alright,’ and they trot off.

“I don’t call them if I do have trouble, I handle it myself. But it’s just reality,” Peterson said. 

Resident Jared Maxfield, who is white, used to work for a local burger restaurant in Midvale. 

“One day we had a man come in attempting to use counterfeit money. The Midvale UPD came to help. The man fled the scene just before they arrived. The officers involved performed a respectful and professional investigation. They interviewed my coworkers and treated each witness’s testimony with equal importance, regardless of the race or nation of origin each employee represented.”