Jim Winder addressed the Moab City Council on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, shortly before the council voted unanimously to confirm Mayor Dave Sakrison’s appointment of Winder as the city’s next police chief. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News file photo]

It may have been April Fool’s Day, but Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder said he wasn’t joking on April 1 when he announced he’s planning to leave the police department and return to the Salt Lake City area.

Winder, a former sheriff of Salt Lake County, was sworn in as chief of police in July 2017 by appointment from former Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison with unanimous support for confirmation by city council. [Moab Sun News co-publisher Heila Ershadi was on the city council when Winder was confirmed.]

In the nearly two years since, Winder has learned a thing or two about living in a small, rural town.

“Everybody knows everybody,” he said.

In an interview with the Moab Sun News on April 1, Winder said it is a pleasure working in the Moab community, but said he will be closer to his family in the Salt Lake City area, explaining that his son was recently accepted into the Utah Military Academy in Lehi.

Winder said he wants the Moab community to know that his departure isn’t a sudden decision, and said he has put a lot of thought into it. He said he does not yet know when his last official day will be at the police department, but will be in Moab for the next several months to assist with any needs of the city’s transition. He said he has had preliminary discussions with the City of Moab and said he anticipates the city selecting a new police chief soon, a candidate who Winder said may come from within the police department.

“It has nothing to do with the quality of the community. I love it,” Winder said. “People have been wonderful to us. I hope we have done a good job, but I recognize the need that to be the chief of police, especially in a community like this, there’s engagement on an operational level and there’s engagement at the community level, and I felt a little remiss in the latter.”

On the latter, he described his family life and what’s been like for them since he’s been working in Moab.


Winder’s first three months in Moab were spent living in an apartment on Walnut Lane while his wife stayed at their home in Salt Lake City as she had worked as a firefighter in Park City for more than 20 years.

“The timing down here was unique for a number of reasons,” he said. “One of the main goals was to consolidate our family… My daughter rides horses. She does a sport called cowboy-mounted shooting and she competes nationally. We envisioned we would come down here and get a horse property, and then my wife was going to home-school the kids.”

Given Moab’s unique housing market, he said their family has not been able to find a suitable property.

“In the meantime, we find a beautiful home, it’s a twin-home,” Winder said. “But my wife, still traveling with my daughter, and because she is home-schooling my son, he’s now traveling with her and they’re doing their own thing.”

Prioritizing his children’s education and training, he said he began driving back and forth between Moab and Salt Lake City “about every weekend.”

“That created some issues,” he said.

(At the time Winder was hired, the Canyonlands Field Airport was in a contract that offered flights to Salt Lake City, but the airport now only offers flights to Denver, Colorado.)

Winder called the Moab community “gracious” for its support in his transition to Moab. He said dinner invitations began rolling in after he began working as chief of police.

“The people here in Moab were wonderful and we were getting calls like, ‘Hey, come over for a dinner party, we know you’re new to town.’” he said. “I’d say, I would love to, but this weekend I have to go back (to Salt Lake City). They’d say, how about next weekend? And I’d say, I’d love to, but my wife is still in Salt Lake … the connections were just were not coming together, and so we continued to try and find the right mix.”

Then he said his son has applied to and is accepted to attend the Utah Military Academy, and he said he feels like he needs to be closer to where his son will be.

The family plans to keep their twin-home in Moab, at least for now, Winder said.


“My recommendation, whatever that’s worth, is to have an internal selection (for the next chief of police),” Winder said. He was not willing to divulge any details on who those candidates may be. “I think the agency is at a place now where that would be very advantageous. It’s a very good department with very good people. I know that it’s been through a period of time where people felt differently about it.”

Preceding Winder’s tenure at the police department, a multitude of allegations were made against certain members of the department.

“There was a period of time when people thought the department was incapable, I guess, there were some who felt it might even be corrupt,” Winder said. “There were people that were very concerned and felt there were these systemic issues, and it wasn’t systemic. It was operational.”

Winder confirmed the SBI and FBI did look into the alleged complaints made against members of the police department, but clarified that there was not an FBI investigation into the police department as a whole, nor did the FBI find anything new when it reviewed SBI reports.

The SBI found many allegations were unsubstantiated, though they determined there were some instances in which policies were not followed, including policies around the handling of evidence.  Other allegations led to the investigations of certain officers. Those types of complaints don’t rise to the level that would be needed to bring in the FBI, Winder explained. 

Since then, Winder said that in his time at the police department, policies and procedures have been revised and replaced.

“It is a constant process because as you re-do a policy, then there’s legislative changes and they’re in a constant re-writing, but we can release any policy at any time,” Winder said. “If you have a specific policy you’re interested in, we’re happy to release it. It’s a process that in a functional organization is constant. It’s an evolutionary process where you move along, and we’ve come a long way.”

Including, said Winder, an evolution in how the police department manages its cases.


“When I arrived here, procedures were unique,” Winder said. At the time, a police officer would go to investigate an incident, write a report and submit it, and records would file it in the server, Winder said.

“But if somebody didn’t know about the case, it would sit there because there was no mechanism to formally assign it to a followup investigator,” Winder said. “So when I arrived here we had a lot of cases that had not been assigned, so that promotes in my mind, the perception of people about the efficiency of the department.”

Winder said in the last month, “we have come to a time where we are in real-time now; we have no more backlog.”

Winder said it took 14 months, with the records manager and two other people working part time to resolve the backlog and to implement a way to properly categorize, send and follow up on reports.

How old was the oldest backlogged report?

“Suffice to say, they were old,” Winder said. “I can tell you they were beyond 2016 and some in even 2015. … I’m not trying to be coy about it, but we’re past it now. I kept in touch with the city about it … there was a particular software that contributed to this, so I’m not pointing fingers, but that’s one of the big changes we have made.”

Another big change, Winder said, is that all of the supervisors went through a multi-phased testing and exam process to obtain their positions with outside evaluators in the community.

“That’s a good step forward and that’s a process that’s going to continue moving forward,” Winder said. “I want the community to know that this agency functions like any other agency now..”

Winder said it’s time, he hopes, for the community to have confidence and pride in its law enforcers.

“They’re going to take the baton and move forward,” Winder said. “I certainly think they’re ready to do that, and I think it’s important for the community. If there’s anything that I’m happy about, it’s that I’m at that point. I would have felt as if my role here had not been effective if we were not at that juncture — I wouldn’t leave if I thought that was the case. I certainly think it is. I think the timing of both my familial situation and the trajectory of where the department is at is an important and unique nexus. We’ve got great people here so I think the department is in good shape.”

“They’re going to take the baton and move forward.”

Winder: “We’ve come a long way”