Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison has nominated current Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder to be Moab’s next chief of police, subject to confirmation by the Moab City Council. Winder is also CEO of the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake, which provides law enforcement services to 10 smaller communities in Salt Lake County including Magna, Kearns, Riverton and Midvale.
Winder told The Times-Independent on Tuesday, May 30 that if the city council approves the nomination he plans to step down from his current job as early as July 1. He said he has traveled to the Moab area since he was a child and visited Moab many times.
“I love it,” he said. “... If I’m fortunate enough [to get city council approval], I’m excited. I will do a good job ... and I would like that opportunity.”
If approved, Winder will move from a position of overseeing more than 1,500 officers who protect 1 million residents, to a police force of about 16 officers who serve a community of just more than 5,600 people.
“Moab is smaller,” Winder said. “But that’s exactly what intrigues me about it. What I’m looking forward to is working in a community where we can actually make changes on a real-time basis ... I really like projects we can make progress on.”
In recent years, Winder’s time as Salt Lake County sheriff has been marked by conflict with Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, as well as clashes with other law enforcement agencies over his decision to stop jailing non-violent offenders as a way to deal with overcrowding at the Salt Lake County Jail.
He said during a May 30 news conference about the Moab job offer that while those issues were “frustrating,” he spoke out about them because they were problems that needed to be corrected.
“It became evident that the size and scope and complexity of this organization is something that probably for a variety of reasons, I was less suited than I had previously been,” he said.
Winder said he will be a hands-on police chief with an open-door policy for employees and community members.
“I’m not a sit-in-my-office kind of guy,” Winder told The Times-Independent. “I will be visible and engaged in the community and with community events ... I hope people in the community will come to know me in that way.”
Winder, who was first elected Salt Lake County Sheriff in 2006, was a late applicant for the job. He first learned of the police chief vacancy while talking with Sakrison at the Utah Memorial Ride for Fallen Peace Officers on April 22, he said. When Sakrison mentioned the city was searching for a new police chief, Winder expressed interest.
At that time, the city had already narrowed the field of applicants from more than 40 to four and conducted interviews with the finalists through panels made up of local citizens, city staff and other community leaders. Two of those candidates later removed their names from consideration and the Moab City Council held public interviews with the final two finalists on April 17 and April 25.
“There were concerns about the two interviewed candidates,” said city council member Tawny Knuteson-Boyd.
After those interviews, Sakrison spoke to the city council and Moab City Manager David Everitt about Winder’s interest in the job.
In mid-May, city officials set up panels to interview Winder. Those panels consisted in part of some of the same community members who had helped interview the previous candidates, said Everitt.
“We came to this point, in part, because ... there was no clear standout after those interviews,” city council member Rani Derasary said. “... Ideally, we were hoping for someone with a lot of experience but who also is approachable and interested in the concept of community policing. He definitely seems interested in that approach.”
She said Winder’s long career in law enforcement, as well as his philosophy on law enforcement, won over local officials.
“We all feel good about this young police force we have, but we’d definitely like a good mentor for them,” Derasary said.
Sakrison told The Times-Independent that the selection of Winder is “exciting opportunity” for the community and the Moab Police Department.
“We have a good group of young officers who don’t have a lot of experience under their belts,” Sakrison said. “We’ve got some long-term guys who are probably going to retire soon, so having a chief of his caliber is going to make it easier to retain and attract good people to the department. His approach to policing is exactly what Moab needs right now.”
The Moab police chief position is appointed by the mayor with approval from the city council. Sakrison said the city council will hold a public meeting with Winder similar to the public interviews held with the other two candidates. That meeting will also give the public the opportunity to meet Winder and ask questions, he said.