KSL INVESTIGATES

KSL Investigates: Sheriff addresses areas of concern in Salt Lake County

Mar 15, 2018, 10:20 PM | Updated: 10:41 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY – For 25 years, Rosie Rivera wanted to be the top cop.

“I always knew I’d be a police chief somewhere. That was my goal,” said Rivera.

She met that goal last August after Salt Lake County Democrats elected her to fill out the term of former Sheriff Jim Winder.

“I absolutely love it, it’s challenging, but gosh it’s a great job,” said Rivera.

She took office at a time of growing gang violence. That’s one of several issues in the county the KSL Investigators have reported on in the last year.

Other areas of concern: how jail restrictions have impacted crime in the county, and the number of officers wearing expired body armor.

Debbie Dujanovic sat down with the new sheriff to see what’s changed in the seven months since she took office.

GANG VIOLENCE

Sheriff Rivera’s first six weeks on the job were marred by gang violence.

Rivera told KSL that guns, gangs and kids are a real problem in the valley. Gang problems have risen to levels not seen since the 1990s Rivera said, but this time with a twist: most of the gang members are now juveniles.

Last month, the KSL Investigators reported on a troubling fact: police have identified 50 gangs in Salt Lake County and estimate there are about 1,300 juvenile gang members.

The metro gang unit is working with federal agents to target guns and gangs. Rivera said while detectives build cases, the department also needs to focus on schools to prevent kids from joining in the first place.

“It’s going to take some time,” Rivera said. “But I really think we need to increase that prevention piece.”

Getting a handle on the number of juveniles joining gangs and committing crimes is one of her priorities, and so is the safety of her officers.

POLICE SAFETY

Starting in 2016, the KSL Investigators uncovered a serious safety issue for the deputies and Unified Police Department officers. We found 46 percent of the bullet resistant vests worn by officers had expired.

Retired FBI special agent Juan Becerra said at the time, “Why would you want to wear something like this that puts your life in danger, unnecessarily?”

For years, the department didn’t track the officers’ vests or how the officers spent the tax dollars given to them for uniforms and equipment.

Dujanovic said, “There’s no accountability for how the money is spent, just knowing the system the way I knew it, officers could be spending the money on a new sofa.”

Rivera said, “Yes, and we weren’t asking them (what) they were spending the money on so when I became the sheriff, probably the first two weeks they had already started looking at a purchasing card program. The go ahead had never been given.”

She gave the green light on the new program. Officers now have special credit cards that can only be used for uniforms and equipment, like vests. Rivera also set an October deadline for officers with expired vests to swap them out.

“Now we are keeping track and when it is expired, if you’re out of policy, everybody knows you have to be in that policy or you’ll be disciplined,” said Rivera.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Another KSL Investigation in 2017 found former Sheriff Jim Winder restricted who could be booked into jail.

Those restrictions essentially barred the jail from booking suspects unless they had committed a violent crime, such as murder, rape or kidnapping. On the streets, police could only issue tickets and release offenders accused of assaulting officers, or breaking into cars. Officers told us those jail restrictions were putting the public at risk.

Salt Lake City police Sgt. Scott Mourtgos said at the time, “It has been ridiculous. It has created real problems for us, we need to be able to book people into jail again for the crimes they commit.”

After our report, the former sheriff began easing the restrictions.

So what’s happened on Rivera’s watch?

Under her command, the booking restrictions are totally lifted. But Rivera said the jail is still at capacity and because of that, jail staff identify inmates who can be released early to help make room. For example, inmates who committed non-violent crimes, such as a misdemeanor charge of theft.

The jail follows a protocol to identify dangerous offenders to keep locked up.

Rivera said, “If we were to get into a situation where it wasn’t manageable than those restrictions would go back but I don’t see that occurring in the near future at all.”

She said unless the jail is expanded, it will not be able to keep up with the county’s growing number of people living here.

LOOKING AHEAD

After seven months in the top spot and 25 years in law enforcement, the new sheriff said she’ll keep making her mark in Salt Lake County. And she plans to run for re-election.

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

KSL Investigates: Growing number of children in gangs 

Police say jail restrictions wreaking havoc in Salt Lake County

Inspection shows hundreds of SL County law enforcement officers have expired bullet proof vests

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

FILE - Thousand gather at the Utah State Capitol to support a woman's right to choose. (KSL TV)...
Daniella Rivera

‘It was hastily passed’: Medical, legal experts raise concerns about Utah’s abortion trigger law

Senate Bill 174, passed by the Utah Legislature in 2020, was crafted, in part, to send a message. Now, medical and legal experts are sounding alarm bells about how it will work in practice.
3 days ago
FILE - Credit and deposit cards on a computer keyboard. Electronic commerce, business. Online shopp...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Americans shy away from using credit cards abroad, missing out on best exchange rates

As COVID-19 wanes, travel agencies are seeing a massive spike in bookings as folks look to spread their wings and travel abroad.
3 days ago
KSL-TV's Matt Gephardt talks to the couple to see how this accident happen....
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair, KSL TV

Utah couple gets hit with sky-high surprise air ambulance bill

A perk of hitting that out-of-pocket max limit on your health insurance is usually, your insurance covers all other expenses for the year 100%. When a Highland couple continued to get bills, they asked KSL Investigator Matt Gephardt for help.
6 days ago
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all making news with wild up-and-down swings in value. (File...
Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Congress considers crypto legislation: What you need to know

It's been a rough year for cryptocurrencies. Prices reached record heights this past November, but by last week, crypto has lost $2 trillion of its market value. Now, there's a new plan for the Feds to regulate cryptocurrencies.
7 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Despite growing demand for digital coupons, most are still printed

Researchers found that 91% of all coupons are old-fashioned paper coupons. That’s a problem when you compare it to consumer demand.
10 days ago
...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Gephardt busts inflation: Is saving hundreds on your internet bill worth the hassle?

When you sign up for internet, you need a modem to connect and router for your home's Wi-Fi. But most internet service providers charge you to use their equipment, on top of what you pay for their plan. But did you know you can buy your own and potentially save hundreds of dollars? The thing is, it’s not necessarily that simple.
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
KSL Investigates: Sheriff addresses areas of concern in Salt Lake County