The Cottonwood Heights Police Department works in conjuction with the Cottonwood Heights Neighborhood Watch to create a safer community for all residents. Help your community by getting involved. Contact Police Support Specialist Sheila Jennings at 801-944-7032 for more information about how to start Neighborhood Watch in your area. Check out their website at www.CHNeighborhoodWatch.com. Cottonwood Heights Neightborhood Watch is also on Facebook:
Neighborhood Watch holds training meetings regularly. Check the calendar for dates and information.
Interview with a Cop: Officer opens up about traffic tickets, community policing
By Martha Cardon
Cottonwood Heights, the city between the canyons. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? It’s like some beautiful place to which we wish we could go. For those of us who live here, it is that and much more. It is our home; the place where we work and play, have great friends and neighborhoods, and enjoy special events and activities.
What does it take to make and keep our city a beautiful place to live? It takes an involved citizenry! Neighborhood Watch is a simple way to get involved. It gives us the opportunity to get to know our neighbors better and to watch out for them.
I recently interviewed Officer Randy Maurer of the Cottonwood Heights Police Department. He answered some common questions about the police department and traffic safety, and expressed his thoughts on how CH residents can become more involved in their community. I extend my thanks to Officer Maurer for his time and shared knowledge.
Q: Talk to me about police behavior and the issuing of traffic tickets. There are lots of urban myths out there. Where does money from traffic tickets go? Do you have “quotas” to fulfill? How much discretion does each officer have?
A: Traffic tickets do not generate much revenue for the city. Approximately 65 percent of revenue from traffic tickets goes to the State of Utah’s General Fund and most of the remainder goes to the local justice court to cover the costs of running the courts. Less than 10 percent of ticket revenue (if that) comes back to Cottonwood Heights.
CHPD does not have quotas or commissions, nor do most other police departments that I am aware of. Officers with CHPD have their performance reviewed three times a year. Many performance areas are reviewed including proactive enforcement (which includes investigating suspicious activities), locating crimes in progress and enforcing traffic laws. Officers are expected to issue three citations during a forty-hour work week. That is one citation every 13.33 hours. Requiring officers to engage in proactive patrol tactics helps keep our community safe. It also meets the community’s expectation that officers will do more than just respond to radio calls. And, just like in any organization, it is a way to measure productivity.
Officers have and usually use a great deal of discretion. Our goal is to focus on changing unacceptable behaviors rather than punitive enforcement, and many officers will often write speeding tickets for the minimum limit rather than the actual speed at which the driver was travelling. For instance, if an offender is going 15 mph over the limit, he/she may only be written up for five mph over the limit. So in answer to the question, “How about a break?” an officer has probably already given you one!
Q: Tell me about DUI checkpoints. How often and when are they established? How effective are they? What do officers look for? What is the value to the community?
A: Their official name is “Administrative Traffic Checkpoints,” and they are determined in a number of ways, including holidays, high volume traffic areas, history of past tickets given per area, and random or rotating selections. Checkpoints are set up one or two times per year and are funded by grants from Utah Highway Safety, which provides necessary equipment, signs, food, etc., at each location. They also provide federal funding to pay officers to staff the checkpoints.
A command-level officer completes an application for a warrant for each check point. They document the specific needs, reasons, and the area where the checkpoint will take place. A judge then scrutinizes it and, if in agreement, issues a warrant to act. Copies of the warrant are available for inspection by any of the drivers stopped at a checkpoint, and notice of planned checkpoints is posted in newspapers in advance of the event.
Checkpoints are designed to identify impaired drivers. A random sampling of vehicles is detained, but drivers experience only a brief delay of 45 seconds to a minute. This is less time than a driver will wait at a red light. Several hundred vehicles, usually 300 to 400, are checked in about six hours. Most check points are conducted during nighttime hours, with an average result of eight to 12 drunk or drug-impaired drivers being taken off our roads. Careful records are maintained regarding numbers of vehicles contacted by officers, vehicles detained for further investigation and arrests made. Most people stopped are courteous and grateful. These checkpoints are of extreme value to the community! Data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) show that checkpoints are a great deterrent to young drivers who are thinking about drinking. Right now, Cottonwood Heights leads the state in DUI enforcement per capita, making our roads safer for the people who travel in the city.
Q: What else should Cottonwood Heights residents know about traffic safety and/or the great job our police department does in maintaining a safe community?
A: First of all, driving is a privilege, not a right. Remember, distracted drivers are quickly detected and caught. Distracted drivers are just as dangerous as DUI drivers to the motoring public. Signs of a distracted driver include having his or her head down, weaving between lanes, etc. Don’t text and drive! The fine assessed is $350 per violation.
The old idea of “us versus them” is outdated and archaic! We will continue to work hard, and partnering with the people of our community works well. The very acronym “COP” stands for “Community Oriented Policing,” something we try to achieve every day.
Our city has great citizen involvement, and the information residents provide is important and is used! Cottonwood Heights has one of the most effective associations with Neighborhood Watch and other programs. Remember, if you don’t want to be a victim, don’t act like one! Use common sense. Close garage doors at night. On a cold morning just a couple of weeks ago, three cars were stolen out of driveways as the owners left their vehicles running unattended. One of the cars was found in Montana! Even in our relatively “safe” community, bad things can happen when we get careless. Police officers can’t do their jobs effectively without the support of the public – and we thank you for it!