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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Cottonwood Heights considers advisory board for CHPD

Dec 13, 2021 01:54PM ● By Cassie Goff

Cottonwood Heights city staff members will begin drafting an ordinance to implement a Citizen Advisory Board focusing on public safety. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

The City of Cottonwood Heights is considering the implementation of a Citizen Advisory Board for public safety within the city. On Nov. 2, City Manager Tim Tingey and Police Chief Robby Russo outlined some of the guidelines for establishing boards/committees set forth by the state legislature. In addition, they surveyed how other municipalities around the area have approached implementing advisory boards.

H.B. 415: Local Law Enforcement Structure and Governance Amendments sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray and Sen. Don Ispon sets the guidelines for Advisory Committees for local municipalities. Primarily, the bill prohibits municipalities from establishing committees with any powers over the police chief.

Advisory committees are prohibited from reviewing or approving a police department’s rules, regulations, policies, or procedures; vetoing any new policy or striking down an existing policy; reviewing a police department’s budget in order for the budget to take effect, approving a contract with a police union; or making decisions about hiring or appointments.

“They do not have independent authority from the police chief,” Tingey said.

However, advisory committees are allowed to provide feedback and insight to a police department. They can give feedback on policies, assess complaints of misconduct, provide recommendations for rules and regulations, review instances of use of force and investigate internal affairs, help with trainings and projects, and advise various functions and activities.

“Cities have enacted these groups in the hope of increasing trust between police officers and the community,” Tingey explained.

Within the Greater Salt Lake area, eight local municipalities have taken one of three approaches for Citizen Advisory Boards so far.

Boards with broad advisory roles can be found in UPD (Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake), Provo, West Jordan and South Jordan. The main purpose of this type of board is to increase communication. The police chief may ask for insights and reviews on issues such as emergency management, neighborhood watch, uniform and grooming standards, and surveys.

Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, and West Valley all have boards with advisory review roles. The board’s primary role is to assess citizen complaints of police misconduct and provide citizen input on force issues. In addition, board members are required to have substantial training.

Murray takes a general public safety approach for their advisory board; where members look at both police and fire issues to provide insights related to general public safety.

Many of these advisory boards were created through ordinances written by city staff members and passed by city councils. Tingey suspects South Jordan to be one of the only municipalities whose committee flows through a more administrative side.

The Cottonwood Heights City Council discussed implementing a committee with a role somewhere between a broad advisory role and general public safety focus. However, the council questioned if that would cause issue since Cottonwood Heights contracts with Unified Fire Authority (UFA) for fire services. They would not want to pass an ordinance impacting the larger footprint of UFA.

“It’s a great opportunity to engage with the community and learn about what we aren’t doing well,” said UFA Chief Riley Pilgrim.

The council asked city staff members and City Attorney Shane Topham to look into writing an ordinance to establish a Citizen Advisory Board. City staff will look further at the ordinance and language from Murray in conjunction with some of the Cottonwood Heights past ordinances that establish committees like the Parks, Trails, and Open Space Committee and Arts Council, as a model.