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South Valley Journal

Riverton Public Safety Night showcases new military-grade armored vehicle and first responder upgrades

Sep 04, 2022 11:17AM ● By Dylan Wilcox

By Dylan Wilcox | [email protected]

Members of the Riverton Police Department, United Fire Authority, Utah Task Force One K9 Unit and other public safety officials hosted over 400 residents from surrounding communities for Riverton’s Public Safety Night held at Riverton City Park on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

“Riverton is a great city and is full of incredible people. I have witnessed so many acts of kindness and great service provided by our officers and members of our community that I am optimistic we will continue to be a thriving and desirable community for future generations. We in the Riverton Police Department appreciate the opportunity we have to provide law enforcement services to our citizenry, and we are proud to work with all of you to continue to preserve our quality of life,” Riverton Police Department Chief Don Hutson wrote in a recently published public safety message on Riverton City’s website.

Hutson and his police force of 36 officers demonstrated different services the department provides to ensure the safety of the public. Working in consort with other communities, Riverton joined forces with South Jordan and Herriman cities to form the South Valley Special Weapons and Tactics team. “The multijurisdictional team between Herriman, South Jordan and Riverton which is made up of members from each of those departments was created to share resources. We have felt that regional and light communities is a better way to share services without costing anybody and having anybody feel slighted since we’re all in similar communities,” Hutson said.

One new addition to the South Valley SWAT team’s defense arsenal is a military-grade Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle. Riverton City’s MRAP was acquired through the federal government’s 1033 program, which is a section taken from the National Defense Authorization Act that was authorized by President Bill Clinton in 1997. The NDAA allows the Department of Defense to give state, local and federal enforcement agencies surplus military-grade hardware. Riverton City put in an application for the MRAP, which was approved, and the armored vehicle made its trip from Georgia to Utah for its permanent home with the Riverton Police Department.

“We began the process of obtaining our own MRAP for rescue operations,” said Detective Olson, who manages the department’s military-grade equipment. “We paid for a fraction of the original cost of this vehicle ,which was $750,000. This was manufactured in 2018 and when we got it, it only had 650 miles on the odometer,” Olson said. According to Olson, the South Valley SWAT team decided to obtain the hulking vehicle after an incident last year involving Ryan McManigal, a former resident of South Jordan.

McManigal had gathered an array of handguns, ammunitions and 20 pounds of explosive materials and other explosive devices in his home. After a shootout with police, authorities arrested McManigal and had to destroy the home due to the amount of explosive material that could not be removed from the structure. Over 600 homes and businesses within the surrounding area had to be evacuated for safety reasons last June. West Valley City’s MRAP was called to respond to the scene which took fire from McManigal. Riverton’s MRAP is the third vehicle of its kind in the valley, after West Valley and South Jordan.

“We bought this MRAP as a life-saving application, not as an assault-style vehicle. Now that we have the MRAP, it’s changed our SWAT operation and how we do things now,” Olson said. The Riverton Police Department’s decision to obtain their own MRAP bolsters their ability to respond to potential precarious and dangerous situations. Instead of entering homes, the police will surround a home and call out suspects to avoid deadly altercations between the police and suspects. “It offers us even more protection, and their bullets will pose no danger to us,” he said. Olson said that there has been no negative feedback from the public about the new MRAP. “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” he added.

“My mission back in 2013, when I was elected to the City Council, was to get us out of the Unified Police Force,” Riverton City Mayor Trent Staggs said. By creating their own police department, it allowed the city more autonomy to focus on areas that needed the police force to secure neighborhoods and bring down the crime rate. “We have been saving taxpayers a lot of money. Since its inception, cumulatively over the past years it has been about $10 million saved,” Staggs added. Staggs mentioned that Riverton police officers were often called to respond to other cities, and as such, their resources were stretched thin. So, from the monetary resources the city was able to accumulate by navigating, and sometimes creating, new tax legislation, they have added 10 more officers to the force, now with a total of 36, without additional costs to residents.

According to a survey conducted by Riverton City last December, the public has indicated that they are satisfied with the services offered by the Riverton Police Department. Of 2,875 participating residents, 75% of surveyors view the department and its officers favorably. One person surveyed anonymously commented that “I appreciate that we now have our own police department. I see them driving around continuously which is awesome.” Others have commented that Riverton’s low crime rate is connected to the city’s push on creating and maintaining their own police department.

Hutson said the new improvements and additions to the police force have provided their team all that is necessary, should the need arise, to respond to an active shooter event such as the one that occurred at Rob Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.

Another part of Safety Night was a demonstration by firefighters with the United Fire Authority. They demonstrated the use of the jaws of life, a large industrial grade rescue tool that can cut through steel to remove doors and the roof from a car. This tool is commonly used in car accidents to help pave the way for paramedics to treat injured patients. The team was able to completely pry off the roof and remove all four doors of a car in seven minutes, much to the amazement of onlookers. The vehicle extractions are done in a careful manner as not to move the injured in the car, thereby minimizing further discomfort, so firefighters work on the vehicle diligently but delicately, according to Captain Oscar Ward, a firefighter with UFA.

Members of the Utah Task Force One K9 unit demonstrated the various techniques trained police dogs use in their line of work. Titan, a German Shepard, and his handler, Officer Hyatt, showed the audience how they deal with aggressive individuals. The K9 unit also showed how their search and recovery dogs go to work. Senka, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois and her handler, Craig Orum, demonstrated how she searches for lost individuals. A young boy volunteered to hide in a barrel and Senka barked at the barrel indicating a person was trapped inside.

Captain Tom Simons, a member of the Utah Task Force One K9 unit and his canine partner, Forrest, a 4-year-old black Labrador, said they are used to doing an array of things, everything from helping track down missing persons to finding hikers trapped in avalanches. Forrest was certified in April as a trained search and rescue dog. A heightened sense of smell and ability to navigate tight spaces make search and rescue dogs an invaluable part of the public safety team.

Towards the end of the event, a helicopter with Intermountain Healthcare’s Life Flight landed in the middle of the field at Riverton City Park. As soon as the helicopter landed, a crowd of people rushed over to get a closer look at the medical vehicle. Lindsay Cheatham, a flight nurse who specializes in neonatal care, posed for pictures with families in front of the helicopter. One family that was there were the Kenisons, whose youngest daughter, Quinn, was cared for by Cheatham in February 2019.

Jim Kenison recognized Cheatham as the nurse who cared for Quinn when she had to be medevacked from Riverton Hospital to IHC in Murray. Quinn’s lungs were not fully developed, having been born five weeks early, and she needed immediate care. Cheatham stabilized the newborn for the 6-minute helicopter flight from Riverton to Murray. Jim was in the helicopter with his daughter and was pleased by the care they experienced during the flight.

“Everything was amazing. It was just awesome, and the flight was so smooth,” Jim Kenison said. Jim’s wife, Cherie, said that their daughter is healthy and doing well today. The family expressed their warm appreciation to Cheatham and the Life Flight team.

“I am so glad that she is doing better,” Cheatham said. She has treated hundreds of kids over her career, and while she didn’t specifically remember Quinn, she feels she makes a significant difference. “That’s why we do this job, helping kids get where they need to go. We love to see happy, healthy kids,” Cheatham added.

Participants were also treated to free dinner from Texas Roadhouse, snow cones, and different booths that stressed the importance of each family having an emergency response plan in place.