John Eining reflects on first year as Draper’s police chief
May 30, 2019 02:31PM
By Mimi Darley Dutton
Chief John Eining has restructured the police department, although he’s struggled with employee retention in a competitive pay environment. (Photo courtesy Draper Police Department)
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
Police Chief John Eining sums up his police work prior to coming to Draper as having made him “a jack of all trades but a master of none.” That varied experience in his 25-plus years in uniform has served him well. “In my career, I was always asked to do different things. The nice thing about it is I got a lot of different experiences in different areas, so I had a really good overview — which has been very beneficial as an administrator,” he said.
Eining grew up in Oregon and came to Utah to attend BYU where he met his wife of nearly 35 years. He’s a father of two and a grandfather of three.
He began his career in South Jordan as a reserve officer where he was quickly hired full time. “South Jordan was a one-car patrol and Sandy was larger with more people and more opportunity,” he said. He went to work for Sandy in February of 1992 and accumulated experience on patrol, in K9, as a DARE teacher, doing investigations, supervising school resource officers and starting a community response team that he described as “a proactive patrol squad for problem areas in the city.” He also led the SWAT team for a period of time, worked patrol and investigations again, and then moved into the administrative side before being hired as Draper’s deputy chief in February of 2014 under former Police Chief Bryan Roberts.
It’s been more than one year since Eining was named Draper’s top cop, leading a team of 60 employees. His jurisdiction has seen an increase in both property crimes and violent crimes such as aggravated assault, sex crimes and robberies in the last five years, but they’ve not had a homicide since 2015. The property crime his department sees the most of is vehicle burglaries (someone entering a vehicle and taking property out of it). He said close to 70% of those are a result of vehicles left unlocked with property left inside. The police department sees the same sort of “opportunistic” crime when garage doors are left open, leading to residential burglaries.
Eining’s biggest challenge as chief hasn’t been on the streets. It’s been hiring and retaining employees. That’s because other agencies are continually increasing their pay and updating their benefits to stay competitive, something that Draper City is also trying to do. But it’s a continual race, especially in a good economy. “Draper has the lowest pay for police in the Salt Lake Valley. It’s important to note that over the last few years the city council and mayor have addressed these issues,” he said, explaining that the council made an adjustment to the pay scale in spring of 2018 and improved the retirement benefit, making it possible for Eining to recruit and be competitive again at that time.
The city is once again working on a new budget, but Draper has been losing more experienced officers to other agencies that are willing to pay $4 or $5 more per hour. Eining’s current recruiting pool is mostly brand new people. “You’re constantly starting over. We’re trading an experienced officer for a brand new officer, and I lose all the training they gained when they were with us. I hope we’ll be able to do another pay scale adjustment so that we become competitive. We don’t have to be the best paid in the valley, we just have to be competitive,” he said.
He noted the appeal of Draper definitely helps in his recruiting and retention. “The citizenship, everything about Draper is very good, so that does help in recruiting.”
Eining restructured the department when he became chief. He did away with the deputy chief role he used to occupy, which entailed handling the day-to-day operations of the department while Roberts interfaced with the mayor, city council and other chiefs of police, attended auxiliary meetings and assignments in the valley, participated in the Utah Chiefs of Police Association and supported legislative bills that affected law enforcement. Instead, Eining created two lieutenant positions under his role as chief. One is over patrols and the other oversees administrative duties such as records, investigations and animal services.
His reason for the change in structure was twofold. By splitting up the work, he said it allows for more attention to detail. “It was a lot for one person to manage,” he said of his former role as deputy chief. “The other reason was to provide more opportunity for growth. It used to be that the only path was start out as patrol, next step is sergeant and the next is lieutenant, but we didn’t have that rank and sergeants didn’t really have advancement opportunities. That’s why Bryan (Roberts) recruited outside the department for a deputy chief. By creating lieutenant positions, it’s more advancement opportunity and a mentoring opportunity for me. Sometime I’d like to get that deputy chief position back, but for now, this is the way it’s going to be and we’ll work with what we have.”
The police department has worked to be part of the community. They host Coffee with a Cop, oversee an active Neighborhood Watch program and they offer a drug take-back program. They’ve worked on a safe schools initiative and done drills for an active shooter situation at local schools. They have a Kids At Risk program designed to identify kids who are starting to act out or have issues, providing them with resources that might change their path. “Instead of bad behavior, we hope to have some early interventions that might change that and put them in a more positive direction so we’re not dealing with them in the future,” Eining said.
The Draper police continue to hold their Citizens Academy, an eight-week program that introduces citizens to different aspects of law enforcement such as traffic stops and investigations. “It gives citizens insight into what the profession is about and then we get some perspective from them on what they want from a police department,” he said. They have a similar Youth Academy offering.
This spring, Eining and his fellow officers could be found reading to children at Draper Library story time and joining patrons for lunch at the Draper Senior Center. They’ve also just unveiled a brand new mobile command center that will allow them to set up an instant command anywhere in the city for incidents involving police and fire.
Eining is most proud of the atmosphere of his department and the people he works with. “Because we’re a small agency, we have a really good family feel to the police department, ” he said.