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Community Advisory Board to review Taylorsville police officer uses of force and high-speed chases

Apr 03, 2022 07:44PM ● By Carl Fauver

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Four men and one woman – all longtime Taylorsville residents – have been tabbed by Mayor Kristie Overson to serve on the city’s new Community Advisory Board. After undergoing several weeks of training, Dan Armstrong, Randy Freestone, John Lefavor, Dean Paynter and Lynette Wendel will be tasked with reviewing uses of force, high-speed chases and internal allegations of misconduct for the Taylorsville City Police Department.

“It was a difficult decision because we had many very qualified members of our community apply,” Mayor Overson said. “Finalists interviewed with myself and a small panel of others. Then the final decisions were mine. I chose the best of the best; and I’m excited for this advisory board to get together.”

Others on the interview panel included Police Chief Brady Cottam, city Chief Financial Officer (and Assistant City Manager) Scott Harrington, and the management team leader who coordinated the year-long project to form the Taylorsville City Police Department, Jay Ziolkowski.

“Now that the mayor has made her selections, the five appointees will be introduced to the entire city council, probably at one of their April meetings,” Ziolkowski said. “After that, they will undergo several weeks of training, reviewing police department policy, joining officers for ride alongs, things like that. The training will be informal – not like a classroom setting. We just want to make sure they don’t go into it cold.”

City and police officials have long wanted to see the Taylorsville Community Advisory Board up and fully functional by the one-year anniversary of the department’s creation. Since Police Chief Brady Cottam and his staff began serving and protecting Taylorsville residents last July 1, the new board has three months left to become fully operational to meet that goal.

“We have prioritized three primary areas the board will review,” Ziolkowski continued. “These are officer uses of force, high-speed chases and internal investigations of possible officer misconduct.”

Several different things fall into the “use of force” category.

“Any time one of our officers fires their weapon, obviously that is a use of force that will be reviewed by the board,” Cottam explained. “But if an officer uses their taser, deploys pepper spray or uses their baton, those incidents will be reviewed as well. Also, if one of our canine officers bites a suspect, the circumstances around that will be discussed.”

Each of these uses of force occur very infrequently. Cottam estimates, department wide, officers only use their tasers perhaps twice a month. Pepper spray is deployed once or twice per quarter. And officers rarely even carry batons. He estimates their use will likely be reviewed by the board no more than once or twice a year.

The five-member advisory board will review case specifics and will render opinions as to whether an officer should be disciplined or even terminated for a particular offense. However, case-by-case board conclusions will serve only as recommendations to the Taylorsville City Police Department.

“I enjoyed the (advisory board applicants’) interview process and, overall, I was extremely impressed with all of them,” Cottam concluded. “I told the mayor ‘You have a really tough decision – but, the good part is, you cannot mess up.’ I was confident no matter which five people she chose, it would be a good panel.”

Here are a few details about the five people chosen to serve on the Taylorsville Community Advisory Board:

Dan Armstrong – Armstrong retired last December from the Taylorsville City Council after serving two terms (eight years). Armstrong is also in the process of selling his interest in the accounting firm he founded. During his final two years in office, Dan also served as the council liaison to the city’s volunteer Public Safety Committee.

“Even though I decided not to run for re-election, I knew I wanted to remain involved in the community,” Armstrong said. “When I first heard about this advisory board being created, I thought it would be a fun challenge to help out. I like working with Chief Cottam and the mayor.”

Randy Freestone – Freestone works for Steve’s Automotive Specialists in Clearfield and has lived in the same Taylorsville home since 1986, long before the city incorporated. His two daughters are Taylorsville High School graduates.

“I think creating an advisory board like this is a very smart move, because it makes the police department more open and holds officers more accountable,” Freestone said. “I have watched Chief Cottam rise up through the (law enforcement) ranks and I think he is a good leader. He’s not afraid to hold his officers accountable.”

John Lefavor – Lefavor graduated from Taylorsville High School in 1983 before embarking on a 30-year law enforcement career, working for the University of Utah, Park City and – for the final 19 years of his career – West Valley City PD.

“Initially, I worried being a retired police officer might lead people to think I am trying to position myself on the board to defend officers,” Lefavor explained. “But my intent is to bring experience to the position. Nobody dislikes officers who act improperly more than good police officers. The bad ones make the job so much more difficult for the good ones to do.”

Dean Paynter – Paynter is retired from a long career in television journalism as a producer and news director. He also spent eight years teaching broadcast journalism at BYU. Except for moving to Houston for one year, Paynter and his wife have lived in Taylorsville since 1981, raising five children.

“Our police officers are responsible for our safety and keeping the peace; but they also have a wonderful opportunity to be ambassadors for the city,” Paynter explained. “I want to do what I can to help ensure our residents don’t have negative experiences with their police. Taylorsville is such a fantastic city. I was thrilled when the city council voted to reestablish our own police force. It just feels like they are now closer to our local government.”

Lynette Wendel – Wendel has already volunteered for many years as a member of the Taylorsville Planning Commission, where she is vice chair this year. Wendel is also an active member of the city’s Public Safety Committee. And for the second time in as many years, she is running for a seat in the State House of Representatives.

“I applied for a position on the community advisory board because I know the hard job our police officers have and I love to support them,” Wendel said. “In 2017, I went through the 13-week Citizen’s Police Academy (operated by the Unified Police Department and Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office) where I started to learn just how hard (police officer) jobs are. If we can provide them with another perspective, I believe they will be able to do their jobs even better.”

Officials say each of the five Taylorsville Community Advisory Board appointments are for two years. However, there is no set limit on how many times they can be reappointed to their post. Board members do not represent any particular geographic regions of Taylorsville City. These are not elected positions.