Police Chief Jared Garcia is four and a half months into his job with the Moab City Police Department. During the regular City Council meeting on Sept. 27, Garcia provided a number of department updates concerning staffing and updated facilities.
First, staffing at the department has improved. 18 officers are on staff, up from just eight when Garcia started; the staff includes a new assistant chief, an administrative sergeant, two detectives, and five officers. Lex Bell, the new assistant chief, came from the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake, where he worked for 21 years.
“Most of my career was spent in a detective role—10 years in a metro gang unit, seven years on SWAT,” Bell said. “I like the action … Chief Garcia and I have been friends for a long time, and we work great together.”
Bell added that he is “super excited about the opportunity” to be in Moab.
“We’re making a lot of progress already, and I love the people,” he said. “Everywhere I go, everyone’s great.”
Scott Finlayson, the new administrative sergeant, previously worked with Bell at the Unified Police Department. Finlayson has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and has worked in a number of positions within law enforcement.
“I’ve been coming to Moab for many, many years,” Finlayson said. “My family comes down here and we love the area … I hope this will be my last stop in the law enforcement realm.”
“We’re glad you’re here, and welcome to our community,” said Mayor Joette Langianese. “I know the community is really happy to have our police department back in shape, thanks to the Chief and all the efforts to bring you here.”
“When you see us around, say hello—don’t arrest us though, we’ll try to stay out of trouble,” said Langianese.
Police facilities have also been updated: there’s a better squad room where officers can work and the department invested in new digital forensics technology and software that “makes it easier to track accountability of our officers,” Garcia said, and helps track citizen complaints.
The department has also purchased dash cameras for all patrol vehicles to be installed within the next six months, upgraded all its firearms and tasers, and invested in the PoliceOne Academy training program. The department also converted an officer position to a school resource officer position, and provided the detectives with training in threat assessment.
“That’s a big topic in today’s world, where we just have a lot of politically-charged items that really get people fired up and we have a lot of people with mental health challenges,” Garcia said. “It’s important for us to be able to assess those threats and hopefully take the appropriate action to mitigate and prevent serious acts of violence.”
The department is also working on updating its policy manual, vehicle fleet, and records management system.
“We have a lot of work to do still, but we’re making great progress,” Garcia said.