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Although both are officers in the Unified Police Department (UPD), Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder and his Republican challenger, Jake Petersen, have different perspectives about their law-enforcement agency.

Winder, who has run the UPD since it was established in 2009 to provide basic police functions in the unincorporated county and in member cities, sees the UPD as a shining example of effectively consolidating resources to deliver better services.

"The model has been proven by every metric," said the two-term Democratic sheriff. "Communications has improved. Certainly our financial situation is better. I don't know how anyone argues about its efficacy."

Petersen, a UPD lieutenant who oversees its SWAT team, canyon patrol and search-and-rescue units, said he is proud of the department's accomplishments but feels Winder is using it to advance his own agenda.

'Kingdom building' • "He is obsessed with kingdom building and expanding the UPD," Petersen said. "I believe government closest to the people governs best. If a city wants its own police department, I wouldn't say it's wrong like [Winder] does."

Winder responded that none of UPD's member cities — Herriman, Holladay, Midvale, Riverton and Taylorsville — "are there because of a threat [from me]. They're there because they recognize the value of the model."

He characterized the "kingdom-building" assertion as another in a string of personal attacks Petersen has launched because the challenger doesn't have legitimate issues to zero in on. That was true last month, Winder said, when Petersen criticized him for using a Bearcat armored vehicle — privately owned but on loan to the UPD — at a campaign fundraiser a year ago in Grantsville.

The Salt Lake County Republican Party took up Petersen's cause and filed a Hatch Act complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel challenging the use of UPD officers to assist in operating the Bearcat at the campaign event. No action has yet been taken on the matter, said county GOP Chairman Dale Ash.

Petersen insisted Winder was wrong to include the UPD officers in a political event and that his Democratic opponent has continued to flout the law, using his sheriff's vehicle to attend a campaign event last week. Winder said he did drive his sheriff's vehicle to a meet-the-candidates night, but did so because of the real possibility he might be called to a crime scene.

"Jim Winder is, in my opinion, what's wrong with politics today," Petersen said. "He thinks he's above the law. … It's that kind of corruption we can't take as taxpayers."

If he is elected sheriff, Petersen said he would work hard to reduce "the growing divide between police and the public," to end a sense of "mistrust and intimidation" that separates law-enforcement officers and the people they are paid to protect.

He said his message resonates with people he encounters on the campaign trail, who "want their 'Officer Friendly' back," a reference to a campaign that ran largely from the 1960s through the 1980s to forge relationships between cops and schoolchildren.

"I see that vision and I want that for my community," Petersen said. "When someone calls for service, wherever they're calling from in the valley, the best thing I can do is make sure they get trained, respectful and happy officers."

Staying the course • When he campaigns, Winder finds people interested in the issues he has focused on for the past eight years — working toward the consolidation of the valley's two 911 emergency-response systems, finding better ways to deal with the jail's population of mentally and behaviorally troubled inmates, and setting up acute medical units at the jail to handle cases that would be far more expensive if patients were hospitalized.

"People understand and recognize that these are things that need to be done," Winder said.

Petersen retorted that through his tenure as sheriff, Winder hasn't managed to unify the 911-dispatch services.

"What has he done the last four years?" Petersen questioned.

The two men do share lengthy histories in law enforcement.

Petersen, who grew up in Sandy and graduated from Alta High, began as a correctional officer in the county jail 15 years ago, was a patrol deputy in the sheriff's office and a school resource officer at Brighton High. He moved up through the ranks in the sheriff's office and the UPD, becoming a command-level officer who recently served as chairman of the county's Highway Safety Task Force. Outside of work, Petersen also is a doctoral candidate in the University of Utah's political science department.

Winder has worked for the sheriff's office for 29 years, at various times leading special operations, training, investigative and community-oriented policing units. He has received additional training in Germany and Northern Ireland, where he took part in an anti-terrorism program. A Westminster College graduate, he teaches leadership classes through the University of Utah.

"I hope I have demonstrated over the course of the last two terms that I do what I say, I work hard and I'm effective," Winder said.

Said Petersen: "It's time for a new sheriff in town, plain and simple."

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