Year in review: fire, police and the homeless
Jan 01, 2018 08:10AM
By Travis Barton
Former Police Chief Bryan Roberts stands with the council in March after being recognized as Police Chief of the Year by the Utah Police Chiefs Association. (City Journals)
Draper City had a year that won’t soon be forgotten. Here are some of the biggest stories from 2017.
Fired police chief
Possibly the biggest moment of the year came right at the tail end. Bryan Roberts was suddenly terminated during a city council meeting on Nov. 21.
The council voted unanimously (Councilwoman Michele Weeks abstained) to fire Roberts stating in the resolution the council found “it is in the best interest of the city to terminate Bryan Roberts’ employment, without cause.”
City officials have simply stated since that it was time for a change without further details.
Roberts was appointed police chief in 2012 and named Police Chief of the Year in March by the Utah Police Chief’s Association.
After giving his annual department report in a March 21 city council meeting, the council surprised the chief by honoring him for the award. In a press release from the city, Roberts was recognized for his innovative and progressive law-enforcement practices and providing state-of-the-art training to police staff that included fair and impartial policing.
“He has enhanced community relations with a wide variety of community outreach programs that include Coffee with a Cop, a citizens academy, Sub for Santa program, school resource officers and increased the Neighborhood Watch program to almost 40 active groups,” the press release stated.
After presenting Roberts’ report to the council, Mayor Troy Walker praised the department and Roberts in particular.
“Ever since we’ve hired you, the department has gotten better and better,” Walker said. He later added, “You guys do an outstanding job and I’m grateful for all your service as well.”
Now Roberts, who came to the department from Menlo Park, California, where he was police chief, is being replaced by John Eining.
Eining previously was serving as deputy chief before taking over the role on an interim basis. The council passed a resolution on Dec. 5 appointing Eining as police chief.
Prior to arriving with the Draper PD, Eining served in the Sandy Police Department for 22 years.
“I am excited for the opportunity to lead the fine men and women of the Draper Police Department,” Eining wrote in a press release. “Our goal will always be to enhance our relationships, provide security and improve the overall quality of life for Draper citizens.”
Walker said in the press release that Draper will be “well served” by Eining.
“John is an outstanding police officer,” Walker wrote in the press release. “He is skilled, well trained and understands the unique role police officers play in our community. John is respected in the law enforcement community and he works well with citizens and city management.”
Though the third homeless resource center site was announced to be in South Salt Lake on March 31, Draper was not exempt from the selection process.
After an original four shelter plan in Salt Lake City was scrapped with two proposed sites dropped, a third was chosen to be placed somewhere in Salt Lake County.
March 10 saw five homeless sites selected — three in West Valley City and two in South Salt Lake, with two additional South Salt Lake sites added on March 21.
But it was March 28 that saw Draper jump to center stage, literally.
Walker shocked residents by announcing he was offering two potential sites for consideration within his city limits. One site would be a portion of the Utah State Prison location, which is scheduled to be moved to Salt Lake City. The other site was at 15001 Minuteman Drive.
Draper was the first city to willingly offer sites for a homeless shelter.
“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the Christian thing to do. It’s the thing that will set us apart and make us the people we are,” Walker said at the time.
Draper residents, however, did not feel the same.
Nearly 1,000 residents showed up to an open house on March 29 at Draper Park Middle School. The meeting was supposed to be an open house–style meeting where residents could fill out cards with their comments and learn more about the sites.
When residents found out there was no public comment to be made, a handful hijacked the meeting, forcing the school to open the auditorium and provide a microphone.
The majority of residents who were opposed to the homeless shelter sites cited concerns over increased crime and drugs, putting strains on the police department and lowering property values. Those who spoke in favor or pleaded compassion were booed by the audience.
The nearly four-hour meeting, which mostly consisted of Walker and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams sitting silently on the stage while residents spoke their minds, ended with Walker rescinding his offer of the two sites.
“You folks don’t want it,” Walker said, “so we can’t in good conscience say we want it here.”
A few months later, a band of dedicated residents put together a citywide service project called I Am Draper City to donate time, blood and/or services to volunteer organizations. It was also to show that not all Draper residents were like those at the open house.
“My wife and I showed up for the Draper homeless meeting that they had, and we were really embarrassed. I didn’t want to be from Draper,” Adam Kessler, one of the event organizers, told the Journal. “So we decided we wanted to do something to give the people we know in Draper a chance to go serve and do something impactful and different. There’s no ulterior motive in this, we just want people to serve.”
Draper elected two new members to the city council at the November elections while Walker retained his seat as mayor after defeating challenger Michele Weeks.
“I am excited to serve as mayor for another term,” Walker said in November. “I will continue to work to improve our quality of life and enhance our economic opportunities.”
Walker was initially elected to the city council in 2006 before being elected mayor in 2013. He now enters his second term, having won with 54 percent of the vote.
“We live in an amazing place. I love the city and it is an honor to serve as mayor.”
Joining him in the council chambers will be two new at-large city council members in Tasha Lowery and Mike Green, respectively. They beat out incumbent William Rappleye, who had served on the council for eight years. Jeff Stenquist, the other at-large councilman, chose not to run for reelection.
Lowery is a long-time Draper resident who said she will focus on the increasing congestion on the streets, red level air quality and poorly planned homeless shelters.
“Thank you, Draper residents,” she said in November. “My heart is filled with gratitude to each and every one of you who believed in me, who worked for this campaign effort and who turned out to vote.”
Green is a military veteran, assistant Utah attorney general and former football walk-on for the Utah State Aggies. Green said he was honored to earn enough support to be elected.
“I will strive to be a good steward of the office, listen to all concerns and make decisions most beneficial to our community,” he said.
Draper had a 50 percent voter turnout with 10,853 ballots counted.
2017 saw the Draper City Fire Department officially begin its service on June 30. This came 10 months after the council voted 4-1 to leave the Unified Fire Authority (UFA) to create their own fire department instead.
Clint Smith was appointed the city’s fire chief in October 2016 and then worked through months of planning, hiring and training.
Smith said the city didn’t part ways with UFA because of service; the city simply wanted more control over fire services.
While many thought the city would get no response for firefighters, the department ended up with over 400 applicants. Thirty-nine were hired full time, with 20–25 working part time.
Four of those firemen were in California in mid-December helping battle wildfires.
Smith told the Journal in August that some residents were worried about decreased services, “but that hasn’t been the case,” as most of the feedback they’ve heard has been positive.
“I think the other thing is the fact that we are truly their fire department,” Smith said. “We want to be recognized not just as the firefighters, but we want people to recognize faces and recognize us as real people — not just firefighters. We’re trying to capture the fact we are Draper City’s fire department.”