Chief bows out

Family obligations lead to reluctant decision

Police Chief Jim Winder

After nearly two years at the helm, City of Moab Police Chief Jim Winder will leave his position at some point in the near future.

The decision to step down was not an easy one. Winder said his reason for leaving stems from a desire to spend more time with his family. This is a common refrain when officials resign, but it’s more than an easy out for the chief.

“This is entirely personal,” said Winder. His daughter, 17, is highly skilled in cowboy mounted shooting, a competitive equestrian sport. His 13-year-old son is a gifted hockey player. Neither pursuit is available in southeastern Utah, where Winder had a home to accommodate his family.

The Winders fully support their children, and his wife has homeschooled them in order for them to have more time to participate in extracurricular activities. It turns out those activities have kept the family away from home. His daughter practices and competes up north and elsewhere. His son recently returned to school – he’s been accepted into the Utah Military Academy in Lehi.

“I went home and my boy’s voice had changed,” said Winder, showing emotion. He said his wife and family have sacrificed for him throughout his 23-year marriage.

“It was always ‘The Jim Show’, he said. “It’s time to change the focus. I really had anticipated Moab was it. It seemed like the perfect choice … I sincerely wish we could have made it work.”

Winder said the fact that he rarely spent weekends in Moab proved frustrating because it kept him from “fully assimilating” into the community. “The city, both its government and residents, have been wonderful to me,” he said. “But our circumstances never allowed me to engage. I needed to be here every weekend in a holistic sense.”

Winder said city officials were kept apprised of his domestic challenges and were not caught off guard when he announced his resignation last week.

The chief said he has a few “outstanding” job opportunities back home in Salt Lake City – the family never sold its home there – both in and out of law enforcement. “I’m very fortunate,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”

As for his replacement, Winder has recommended Mayor Emily Niehaus and the Moab City Council look within the department. “I think an internal candidate would be appropriate,” he said. “The city has gone through so much turmoil. I understand that. But we have a wide depth of experience now and the agency is in good shape.”

During Winder’s tenure, the department has improved its case management structure so that cases are worked immediately rather than gathering dust as cases backlog, he said. He also said the department’s relationship with the Grand County Attorney has improved with the advent of Christina Sloan’s election win in November.

Winder also said the multiphase testing process that potential supervisors go through has improved the command. He said accountability is key as some of the people who participate in that process now come from outside law enforcement.

“It resulted in us getting successful supervision that’s capable and qualified,” said Winder. “It’s a very positive situation.”

The policies and procedures manual was and continues to be modernized. Winder said some parts of the policy – which is a living document that is constantly amended – contained outdated police procedures that were last in vogue three and four decades ago. He was quick to point out this wasn’t the fault of the previous administration. “We had to buy software,” he said.

Winder said he has requested a budget of $4.3 million to sustain his department in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. He has 18 sworn officers and four civilian employees, a traffic specialist and school resource officer – all positions not typically available at small city departments – and he’ll find out in the coming days what the city will provide in terms of funding.

Winder said he will stay on the job until the city decides what avenue it wants to take in locating his replacement. “Whatever they need, I’ll give it to them,” he said.

“The city is ready and I hope the city – and residents – realize how much I appreciated being here,” he said.