Board discusses Sheriff’s Office’s underage party response
January 31, 2014
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office’s response to a Nov. 24 underage party in Trailside has been a contentious community issue since it occurred, and on Thursday the office’s Citizen Advisory Board discussed the incident in detail.
The Citizen Advisory Board is comprised of about 20 community members who help to advise Sheriff Dave Edmunds on various issue of concern to the county and its residents. Although Thursday’s meeting was not open to the public, The Park Record spoke with two members who were at the meeting.
Ed Esber said Sheriff Edmunds started the meeting by having his officers who were on the scene recount the events that took place. He also went into detail on the reports that were written up about the incident and opened up an hour-long session of questions and suggestions.
Esber said the situation was complicated by several factors one being the fact that there were far more juveniles and adult minors at the party than officers previously thought around 70.
"There were not enough resources from [the Sheriff’s Office] to handle the situation as effectively and efficiently as one could for that many people," Esber said. "Those limited resources had to triage the situation as best they could."
The Sheriff’s Office responded to the underage party with assistance from Park City Police, the Utah Highway Patrol and the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office.
Mickelson said that perhaps the Sheriff’s Office could expedite how adult minors and juveniles are processed in a situation like this, but said the parents’ responsibilities need to be discussed as well. He said that he and others on the Board had informally spoken with parents involved in the incident, but the meeting did not feature any formal efforts at dialogue with those concerned.
"Parents, you have to remember the responsibilities you have if you’re hosting these [parties]," Mickelson said. "We really need to educate parents and say, ‘These are the things that can happen if your kids are drinking.’"
Mickelson added that the Sheriff’s Office’s response was tempered by the fact that there have been previous incidents in which kids from the Salt Lake Valley come up to parties such as these, sometimes bringing weapons.
Esber said the biggest issue that came up was how the young adults at the party were booked by law enforcement. In a Dec. 7 editorial in The Park Record, Joe Tesch and David MacFarlane complained that many of the young adults were detained at the Summit County Jail for several hours, while parents were denied contact with them.
"A number of these young adults would have been booked eventually anyway," Esber said. "In any enforcement action that involves a situation like that, one has to be mindful not only of the dangers to the people at the party, but what should occur should someone from the party get on the highway and cause harm to others."
Tesch and MacFarlane also wrote that deputies were "liberal in their use of the "F" word" and "swore directly at the kids." Brett Mickelson, another member of the Citizen Advisory Board, said that the sergeant in charge did not hear any of his officers swearing.
"There may have been some cussing at the jail. Some of the younger folks were a bit belligerent," Mickelson said.
MacFarlane said he and Tesch are advocating the formation of an independent police review board, whose members are appointed by the Summit County Council. Such a board would protect both community members and officers, he said.
"[Sheriff Edmunds’] Board is ineffective. What’s the point of having a Citizen Advisory Board that won’t meet with citizens?" MacFarlane said.
Tesch said Edmunds refused to meet with him and did not let him attend the Board meeting.
"The dialogue can’t just be among the Sheriff and his hand-picked committee," Tesch said.
In January, MacFarlane said he met with Sheriff Edmunds to discuss his concerns, pointing out what he saw as misconduct. He said Edmunds was "argumentative and combative" during the discussion.
Both Mickelson and Esber agreed that the Sheriff’s Office’s response was justified and measured. Mickelson said there will be more meetings with Sheriff Edmunds, as well as community outreach and education efforts.
"This is not a done issue with the Sheriff or the officers who were there," Mickelson said.