Salt Lake County Democrats have chosen Unified Police Deputy Chief Rosie Rivera to lead one of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies as county sheriff through 2018.
Once the County Council signs off, she will become the first female sheriff in the county’s history.
Rivera, who has overseen policing for the Unified Police Department in its Riverton precinct, is poised to replace former Sheriff Jim Winder, who left a year before his term expired to lead the Moab Police Department.
Once she’s sworn in, Rivera will take over at a time of immense pressure to fight crime and improve homeless services in Salt Lake County, all of which involves an overcrowded jail Rivera would oversee.
“We together can ensure that there’s equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for everyone,” Rivera said Saturday morning. “We will hire, we will retain, and we will make opportunities for everyone.”
The County Council must ratify the party’s decision and is scheduled to do so Tuesday. State law doesn’t give it power to block the selection.
Rivera told a gathering of Democratic insiders she would win the 2018 election, when the position is on the ballot again for a full, four-year term.
“My idea is community policing,” she said. “To bring us all together so we can get together and work on the homeless issue, the jail bed issue, the opioid epidemic.”
Once she’s sworn in, Rivera will take over for Undersheriff Scott Carver, who has been acting sheriff in the wake of Winder’s departure in July.
Rivera edged out Steve Anjewierden in a runoff vote after the two bested three other active law enforcement officials in a first vote among 271 Democratic insiders.
In her speech before the runoff vote, Ken Hansen, Levi Hughes and Fred Ross, who lost in the first round of voting, stood by her side.
Rivera will be sheriff as a large collection of state, city and county agencies has assembled working groups to perform a crime sweep of the Rio Grande area in downtown Salt Lake City. The state worked to temporarily free up hundreds of jail beds in the county jail as part of the effort, and Rivera will be thrown into months of ongoing discussions on the issue.
“It will be a very smooth transition,” Rivera said. “I’m already at the helm of the other commanders.”
This story will be updated.