I have had the honor of serving as a board member for the West Valley City Professional Standards Review Board for the past four years. This civilian board is tasked with oversight of the West Valley City Police Department, specifically their display of force (ie pointing a gun at someone) or use of force (ie physical altercations, pursuits, taser deployments, canine deployments and bites, and firearm discharges). I have not had much interaction with the police in any way prior to my appointment to this civilian board by the West Valley City Council. In my time since joining, I have been on a dozen ride alongs and have attended dozens of training courses with the police officers. I also completed a 12 week citizen's academy course with the department. My understanding of policing has changed dramatically, but more importantly, I know how much our officers care for their cities, their communities, and the people within them.
In my neighborhood several years ago, we started getting incidents of home break ins, car thefts and bikes stolen nearly every few days. The police were called, reports were filed, but the biggest difference in our community happened when the neighborhood decided to take charge of their own streets. We first formed a formal neighborhood watch with my wife as the captain and in our first meeting we had approximately 25% of homeowners in our community (200 homes) attend in our basement. We also organized block parties, neighborhood parties, Neighborhood Night Out events and an annual firework show. We had volunteers driving through our streets at night keeping everyone aware what was going on. We setup a Facebook page for our neighborhood where we shared details of parties and events going on. Within a few years, our neighborhood became one of the quietest parts of the city, from a crime perspective. And most of our neighborhood knows at least some of their neighbors.
A safe community does not come from police, and it does not come from the neighborhood alone. These must be working in conjunction to provide an environment where people are proud of their community and be willing to protect it. Much more difficultly, they must be willing to invest time into being a part of it. The police department of West Valley City has made huge stride in community engagement and offers a lot of resources to communities to help them get to where they want to be.
Government has taken a role is trying to legislate safer communities, or have made the problem worse as a byproduct of misguided policies. I believe in the policy of using the least amount of regulation as possible to prevent externalities from affecting others, and I think the government can provide some support to communities trying to refresh their situation but mostly needs to just get out of the way.
My priorities would be:
Provide strong support for our local police departments by providing them with the budgets they need to operate, with an emphasis on budgets for community programs and outreach.
Reduce, eliminate or change existing government policies that unfairly regulate or otherwise restrict communities achieving their goals of safe, healthy neighborhoods. This includes writing new laws that protect these communities.