As both cities work through the specifics, Tremonton City has approved an outline of an agreement to provide policing services to Garland City.
At a meeting of the Tremonton City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 29, Police Chief Kurt Fertig shared the details of a memorandum of understanding in which the Tremonton Police Department would supervise a combined agency, while still giving Garland power to hire and fire their own officers.
“This makes it clear that Garland will have say and participation and and final decisions on hiring and firing employees they’re paying for,” Fertig said, “but for the most part, we will be overseeing and supervising the department.”
He said Garland recently approached Tremonton about the possibility of merging police services, following the departure of Garland Police Chief Chad Soffe, who recently accepted the chief position with the city of Woods Cross in southern Davis County.
One crucial point in the agreement approved by the Tremonton council last week is that both cities will continue to operate their own public safety budgets. Fertig explained to the council how that would work.
“If we had to make our equipment a little better, we would approach the council here about upgrading our rifles or whatever,” he said. “Then we would go to Garland and ask the same thing for the officers they pay for.”
He said part of the agreement states that “both municipalities, in good faith, will try to keep the officers as even as possible, so there’s not someone being equipped less than someone else.”
That principle of keeping things even across the board would apply to training as well as equipment, he said.
The agreement also states that either city can back out of the arrangement with at least 90 days notice.
“The second thing that makes this palatable is that it is an at-will agreement,” Fertig said. “Either party can back out if things are not working out, if it’s no longer mutually beneficial.”
He said Garland would benefit from 24/7 police coverage and a big increase in police services, including access to a special investigation division, the Tremonton animal shelter, a trained K-9 handler, and a full-time strike force agency.
Tremonton would benefit from a larger overall force, as well as another investigator to help with a backlog of cases, Fertig said.
“We could be safer and more responsive to the citizens of Tremonton,” he said. “Our investigation division of one person is overwhelmed. Tremonton residents really aren’t getting the service they deserve in smaller cases like vandalisms and thefts. Someone to work property crimes will be a huge benefit.”
Combining the departments would also give Tremonton access to a school resource officer.
In addition, with the money Garland is saving by dropping one full-time position from a chief to a regular officer, the department will be able to hire a part-time animal shelter technician to help handle a growing number of animal control calls.
Under the agreement, both cities would continue to fund their police departments at current levels, “with no increase to what we’re funding,” Fertig said.
The only increased cost to Tremonton, he said, is that Garland has requested that badges, patches and vehicles be changed to reflect the combined department, showing the identity of both cities on the insignias.
The combined department would be based at the Tremonton police offices, although Garland would continue to operate its own evidence locker. Citations issued in each city would still be handled through that city’s own court.
Tremonton would handle any disciplinary issues within the department, up to something that would involve a reduction in pay. If there were an issue with a Garland officer that involved a potential firing, Garland officials would have the final say.
Fertig said Garland is willing to consider the agreement at its city council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6. If approved by the Garland council, he said the joint operating agreement could begin as soon as both city councils would like. The first step, he said, would be to fill the currently empty position in Garland.
The Tremonton council voted 3-1 in favor of the agreement, with Councilmember Jeff Reese voting against it.
“I think we need to go with our chief and go ahead and do this,” Councilmember Diana Doutre said. “I like that we can get out if there’s something that doesn’t work for us.”