Since taking office 90 days ago, Tooele County Sheriff Paul Wimmer has seen a number of significant changes and events as the county’s only elected law enforcement officer.
One of the most noticeable changes has been to Wimmer’s surroundings, as he moved the sheriff’s office to the Tooele County Detention Center shortly after his term began. Back in January, Wimmer said the move would allow him to communicate with the patrol, corrections and investigations divisions in one centralized location.
Prior to the move, the sheriff’s office had occupied space in the county building and the detention center. The office space in the jail had been vacant prior to Wimmer moving operations into the building this year.
Wimmer also delivered on a campaign promise by reopening the Stansbury Park substation on March 10. The move was designed to provide another access point for the public while stationing deputies near highly populated areas on the northeast end of the county.
The substation had not been open for about four years. Having a staffed office north of Tooele City reduces the amount of high speed responses to incidents that go through downtown along SR-36, Wimmer said.
“The impact to the traffic and the public is significantly decreased if we’re already in the area,” Wimmer said. “We save ourselves several miles of moving traffic off of (State Route) 36.”
In addition to moving offices, the beginning of Wimmer’s term saw two major events, with the new administration tasked with completing the review on an officer-involved shooting, and a high-speed chase through residential neighborhoods that ended in a four-car accident and the death of the suspect.
In the early hours of Dec. 28, a Tooele County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Stansbury Park resident Nicholas McGehee, who allegedly pointed a handgun at the deputy. On Jan. 15, the Tooele County Attorney’s office found Sgt. Eli Wayman was justified in his use of force because he felt there was a risk of death or injury to himself or others on scene.
A high-speed chase on Feb. 2 involving a stolen vehicle ended in a four-car crash that injured three people, including the driver of the stolen car, Marcello “Antonio” Aragon, who died from his injuries two days later.
The review found the deputy involved in the chase and his supervising officer violated the sheriff’s department policy when the chase continued at high speeds into residential neighborhoods. Both officers were disciplined but Wimmer did not reveal their names or how they were disciplined.
“The biggest purpose of any review of the use of force or pursuit is to see if your training is working,” he said.
The sheriff was critical of a culture under previous administrations that did not put emphasis on following policy. Wimmer reiterated his opinion that the policy is well done and will not see any major changes following the shooting or chase.
One change in policy has been made involving Tooele County Search and Rescue, which reports to the sheriff’s office. Wimmer said search and rescue can now be deployed when there is a need without prior notification to him.
“I felt they were underutilized and the checks and balances used to activate them were too stringent,” he said. “Any agency in the county, if they feel they need search and rescue, they can call them out.”
In the past, the sheriff would have to be notified of a need for the team and approve its use. Since the team is comprised of volunteers and can take up to 40 minutes to gather the necessary gear and respond, Wimmer said he wanted them to be on scene as quickly as possible.
“We’re just losing precious time and often its precious daylight,” he said. “It is time sensitive so I wanted to streamline that.”
Wimmer still has to be notified once the team is activated so he can monitor its use. There are costs associated with equipment and resources of the team, which Wimmer said he wants to be able to track.
The sheriff also agreed to partner with the state Child Abduction Response Team in February. By joining with CART, the sheriff’s department must commit officers to child abduction situations around the state but would also have a state-wide response should a child go missing in Tooele County.
In the coming months of his term, Wimmer said he hopes to add sheriff’s department data to crimereports.com, a website that lists recent crimes and the location of sex offenders publicly. Wimmer said the sheriff’s office had previously used the website and it has benefits for law enforcement as well as community members.
If a child goes missing, crimereports.com will quickly give police a map with information on sex offenders in the area, which is generally the first place police look, Wimmer said. That saves deputies from having to pull sex offender files to find and contact offenders, he said.
Wimmer said the department will also review best practices and other departments’ policies pertaining to body cameras, which the sheriff’s office received last December. The sheriff’s office had waited to create a policy to see if state legislation had passed governing their use, but it did not, Wimmer said.