Salt Lake City

Council Proposes 50 New Police Officers to Improve Neighborhood Safety, Address Impacts of Operation Rio Grande

Responding to constituents concerned about their neighborhoods becoming less safe, Salt Lake City Council Members on Tuesday endorsed an unprecedented proposal to add up to 50 new police officers to the Department’s ranks.

Constituent calls to Council Members about safety-and crime-related issues have risen since police changes were made last August to meet the needs of Operation Rio Grande, which has put a further strain on the already-stretched resources.

“Salt Lake City has asked its officers to do more with less for many years, and the changes prompted by Operation Rio Grande have dramatically exposed the need to take bold action now,” said Council Vice Chair Charlie Luke, who jointly proposed the 50-officer increase with Council Member Erin Mendenhall. “Adding 50 new officers, rather than the 27 recommended by Mayor Biskupski, will bring us closer to national standards in terms of officers per population, and will help achieve the Council’s long-time goal of active neighborhood policing.”

Luke noted that the City’s resident population nearly doubles each day as workers pour into Utah’s three biggest job centers – downtown, the University of Utah and the area around the City’s airport. “We can’t ignore the daytime population increase,” Luke said. “We have no choice but to provide for it and be honest about how we budget for it.” He added that Council Members are concerned that the Mayor’s proposal to add officers doesn’t fully address the departmental needs, including the increase in daytime population.

While Operation Rio Grande has shown positive results, it’s also led to officers being overworked and a greater need for police presence in City neighborhoods. “I hear so many similar concerns from constituents every day that it’s clear to me we have a fragile hold on the feeling of safety in our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Mendenhall. “There’s no doubt we need to make a big adjustment soon.”

The increase in officers would require an up to $5 million increase in this fiscal year’s budget, which will likely be considered for action before the end of the year. Council Members acknowledged that adding more officers will require evaluating many funding options to pay for the increase in the force.

“Having a greater visible police presence in our neighborhoods is long overdue,” said Council Chair Stan Penfold. “Salt Lake City is quickly growing and changing, becoming a lively City at night as well as during the day. My Council colleagues and I believe that City residents and taxpayers will embrace this action and be willing to increase their taxes, if necessary, to improve public safety.”

If the 50-officer increase is approved, the Council will begin exploring those options for increasing revenue to ensure the long-term sustainability of a greater police presence.