CEDAR CITY (ABC4 News) — Southern Utah University officials are discussing the possibility of merging their campus police with the Cedar City Police Department, a consideration some students are already calling into question.
Jessie Mineer, a senior at the university, started a Change.org petition advocating the campus police remain its own department, gathering nearly 900 signatures in three days. The petition reads in part:
“SUU Police have kept campus and visitors safe while going above and beyond providing services such as suicide prevention, escorting students, vehicle lockouts, etc., that a larger department would not be able to supply… This may result in a decrease of personalized safety and security.
“Our campus police have been here so long and they’ve established that personal connection with students, faculty, staff, and the campus culture,” Mineer tells ABC4 News.
University president Scott Wyatt said he started discussing the feasibility of a merger in early May with Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams, whose department is only three blocks away from campus.
Wyatt said he sees the potential merger as an opportunity to strengthen both departments.
“The question that we’re asking is: If we take two relatively small departments and merge them together, can we create a stronger, more supportive law enforcement community both for the town and the university?” Wyatt said.
A criminal prosecutor for 17 years, Wyatt tells ABC4 News he’s worked with cities who have combined two cities’ police departments together as well as sheriff’s offices that have served cities.
The president said mergers are relatively common and often proved to be successful, referencing Salt Lake Community College which contracts with the Utah Highway Patrol and Utah State University-Vernal that contracts with the city.
“When you’re in small rural communities, coming together and pulling your resources almost always yields a higher outcome in the end,” Wyatt added. “Two good departments can become better if we try hard.”
Wyatt stressed that he’s committed to receiving input from students, staff, faculty, and the public for at least several weeks once her receives a proposal from Cedar City Police.
“We’re exploring what it might be,” Wyatt said. “As soon as we get something that we think has merit, if we do get to that point, then it’ll be public.”