UPD loses use of Bearcat, sheriff candidates blame politics

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake County Unified Police Department has lost the use of an armored truck known as a Bearcat, and both candidates for Sheriff acknowledge politics are to blame.

They just disagree about whose politics are to blame.

"My perception is that my opponent chose to use that piece of equipment as a political football," Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said. "Because of that, it created some embarrassment for the owner, some frustration for the owner, and he decided to repossess it."

Winder's opponent is Lt. Jake Petersen, who works as executive officer for the UPD Special Operations Unit.

"The sheriff is the one who made the Bearcat a political issue on October 17th of last year," Petersen said.

October 17, 2013 was the date of a fundraiser at the Big Shot Ranch gun range in Grantsville. Mike Drury, the owner of Big Shot Ranch, also owns the Bearcat that was on loan to the UPD.

The Bearcat was featured at the fundraiser for Winder's reelection campaign, which Petersen said is a clear violation of county code that forbids the use of county resources for political activity.

"It is a marked police unit," Petersen said. "We spend thousands of dollars a year maintaining that vehicle, and there's no way around the fact that that's a police asset when it's with our agency."

But the sheriff says it was Drury's property for Drury to use as he pleases.

"Using it for a fundraiser is exactly, was the intent, the authorization of the owner," Winder said. "We had full compliance. We've done nothing wrong."

Unified Police have arranged to borrow a Bearcat from Davis County when they need to respond to a violent crime in progress.

"It's not ideal, but it's sufficient," Winder said.

4 comments

  • LeeRoy

    Democratic Sheriff Winder and Republican challenger Jake Petersen disagree on whether or not the BearCat is a police vehicle.

    Well… it sure does look like a police vehicle. Doesn’t it? It has police markings, it has red & blue lights, siren, police radio. It was used by police, for official police business. It’s maintained by tax dollars. I think I would have to agree with Petersen… it’s a police vehicle… a police asset.

    Winder says NO! It’s a privately owned vehicle. “Using it for a fundraiser is exactly the intent… with the authorization of the owner. We were in full compliance.”

    I beg your pardon sir! Did you say with the authorization of the owner? You were in full compliance? Full compliance with what? The owner?

    Ever hear of Election Laws? The Hatch Act? County and State Law prohibiting the use of government resources in a re-election campaign? When you used tax dollars to mark the BearCat, tax dollars to install red & blue lights, police radio, fuel and service. And used it in official police business… that BearCat became a police asset. If you and the private owner didn’t want the vehicle to be a police asset, it should have been returned then.

    A private owner can’t excuse you from compliance with the law, can’t give you authorization to ignore election laws. Once you realized the private owner was taking you down this path you should have put a stop to it.

    • Tim

      It doesn’t look like a police vehicle though. It looks like an army vehicle. I’m glad another shiny toy that makes cops feel like soldiers is getting taken away.

  • It's Me Again

    Everyone running for office of any kind has dirt in the closet. When one has nothing good about themselves to campaign with they search for dirt on their challenger. That’s chicken S_ _ _!

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