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South Valley Journal

Riverton’s new police officers come with experience, accolades

Aug 22, 2019 04:03PM ● By Mariden Williams

City Recorder Virginia Loader led all the new recruits in a ceremonial oath of office. All of the officers had been sworn in and performing their duties for a couple weeks before the ceremony took place. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

The shiny new Riverton Police Department declared itself officially up and running with a public swearing-in ceremony at Riverton High School on June 25. 

Though most of the officers had been sworn in and patrolling for several weeks prior to the ceremony, they did it a second time before a beaming audience. The ceremony gave city officials a chance to brag about the police department they’ve worked for about a year to make reality, and it gave residents a chance to meet the new officers that will be patrolling their community.

“Elected officials and city employees alike spent countless hours into the study and the evaluation of standing up its own police department,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. “Public debate, financial analysis, community input, all were taken into account.” 

Things are still panning out to be a little more expensive than anticipated, though. The new police department will cost Riverton $5.8 million this year, about half a million dollars more than the original speculated cost. In July 2018, city officials speculated that the department could be set up for $5.2 million—and about a quarter of a million dollars more than it would have cost to remain with the Unified Police Department for 2019. 

But with 35 police officers and three civilian support staff, the RPD does have nine more dedicated officers than the 26 officers UPD had allotted to the precinct, and Riverton officials are confident in the quality of their new officers.

“This force is an enviable group, boasting on average decades of experience for commanding positions and with half the officers having more than 10 years of experience,” Staggs said. “Their specific experiences and specialty assignments allow us to more than adequately provide for our protection from day one. They bring the best practices from multiple agencies and areas of specialization that will provide our residents with a level of service that is unparalleled.”

One thing that had naysayers most worried about the new police department was whether it would be able to offer the same breadth of services as the Unified Police Department. Since it’s a big department that covers much of the Salt Lake Valley, UPD offers things such as K-9 units, narcotics divisions, SWAT teams and child abduction response teams—things that are nice to have when you need them but hard to justify paying for full time in a small city with a relatively low crime rate. 

Riverton Police Chief Don Hutson, however, is confident that Riverton’s new law enforcement team members have varied enough backgrounds to handle anything that can be thrown at them. Of the 35 new officers, some have served as K-9 handlers, homicide detectives, special victims unit detectives, narcotics specialists, gang officers, field training officers, SWAT team snipers and even undercover officers. Many have won awards and medals.

Officer Jason Cormani arrested an Amber Alert suspect, resulting in the safe return of a kidnapped child. Officer Tanner Grow came to the RPD soon after finishing a 2 ½-year stint as an undercover officer focused on disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations. Sgt. Trudy Cropper has served on the FBI Violent Crimes and Safe Streets task forces. Officer Troy Morgan is rated as one of the top 10 shooters on the Governor’s Honorary Shooting List. And those are just a few of the deeds and qualifications held by these officers.

“There is not a specialty law enforcement job that I can think of—and I've been around for 31 years, so I've seen a lot of specialty law enforcement jobs—that is not presented amongst this group,” said Hutson, who has himself been a drug enforcement task force officer, narcotics unit detective, gang unit detective, S.W.A.T. Team member and patrol deputy prior to his selection as Riverton Police Chief.. “They've done it all. They've seen it all.”  

“I know how good they are,” Staggs said. “I know how competent they are. I know their level of professionalism is extremely high.”