Heber City police chief ready for Strawberry Bay Marina sunset

David Booth is ready to end his 32-year career in law enforcement.

Retiring Heber City Police Chief David Booth has been chief since 2012.
David Jackson/Park Record

A large image taken by Midway photographer Tarry Mair takes up almost the entirety of a wall in David Booth’s office.

The retiring Heber City police chief explained that though he’d stripped the walls and taken most of their adornments, the massive depiction of Heber Valley will outstay his tenure.

“I picked that up at a Swiss Days, probably 2016, I bet,” Booth said. “When I saw it I was like, ‘That’s what I have to have.'”

Though the photo depicts the area Booth now calls home, he started his career in law enforcement a good-stone’s-throw away at the Uintah Basin before moving to Heber City 25 years ago to work for the Park City Police Department when his wife wanted to be closer to their family on the Wasatch Front. He went on to work for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and in 2012 became the chief of the Heber City Police Department, a job he’s retiring from at the end of the month.

“Heber was still rural,” Booth said, talking about their move. “It was a perfect fit for us. Close enough to family, but far enough away.”

Looking back over his time in Heber City, Booth said he takes pride in the relationships he’s worked to establish with different groups and demographics within the community — something he considers vital for law enforcement’s overall success.

When he started as chief, Booth said as an example, he heard that many Latino individuals in the community were concerned the police department was searching for reasons to deport them.

“That was really bothersome to me,” he said. “I personally met with the different advocacy groups to bring in as many Latinos as they could, and we would meet in large groups, large forums, and I told them right from my mouth, ‘This is not going to happen. We are not the federal government. We are not here to deport you.'”

He remembered that the first of those meetings had sparse attendance. At a more recent meeting coordinated with advocacy groups about a year ago, he noticed the room was packed.

The attendance boost took 11 years, patience, understanding, reapproaching, and effort to achieve, he said.

“‘I’m still here and I still want to help, and we’re still here to make things good for you,'” he said, echoing the message he’s worked to spread for 11 years.

Another group Booth worked to establish a relationship with is Heber City’s local businesses. He established a brag-tag program which incentivized kids — and consequently their parents — to visit local shops. He highlighted struggling restaurants on the department’s Facebook page during the COVID-19 pandemic and insured that his officers regularly checked on local businesses.

“I feel that I have really supported and protected and in a lot of different ways helped our businesses be successful and have success in the community,” he said. “I recognize as the chief of police that is where our tax base comes from. I recognize it’s from our local business owners.”

Locally owned and operated businesses, Booth said, are preferable from a law-enforcement standpoint.

“We just don’t have problems when you have the owners in the businesses,” he said. “The businesses that are run with just a manager and the owners are in another state or they’re never around — we seem to have a lot of problems with those businesses.”

With the growth of Heber City from the rural town it once was to the quickly urbanizing area it is today, Booth said he’s seen fewer reports of some types of crime and increases in others.

The increased number of reports, however, are not all bad, in his mind.

“Say, maybe there’s been years that our domestic violence has gone up,” he said. “What I’ve attributed that to is actually a good thing that it’s gone up because certain aspects of our population have been more comfortable with reporting it to us, and I’ve looked at that as a win.”

Despite the excitement with which Booth discussed his career and time as chief in Heber City, every day hasn’t been entirely full of sunshine for him.

During his time in Heber City, Booth was the subject of two investigations — one determining whether he choked a suspect while placing them in a squad car, and another exploring whether he lied about having attended certain trainings.

Though the investigations were widely reported — primarily by Fox 13 Utah — Booth never commented on the incidents. During his interview with The Park Record, he was asked if he wanted to comment on the investigations before his retirement.

He believes things were taken out of context.

“At the end of the day, all the investigations came back that there was no force used at all. It was simply me trying to put an individual in a vehicle as he lunged back out at me three different times in an attempt to headbutt me, to bite me,” he said. “People that have watched that said, ‘Well how are you choking him when your pinky was straight out?'”

He said the publicly available video of the incident — shared by Fox 13 — was freeze-framed on a brief moment where he accidentally had his hand on the suspect’s neck, and that he “had no intention to touch him there.”

Speaking about accusations that he wasn’t at trainings he claimed to have attended, Booth said he’s still not sure how the claims came to be.

“I was at the trainings and participated and there was officers that vouched for me and I was cleared,” he said.

On one occasion, he explained that he hadn’t signed the roll because he was in front of the class teaching.

Booth said he’s looking forward to working as a guide and outfitter for the Strawberry Bay Marina and pursuing other part-time jobs that interest him.

“I think a lot of your success is by the support of your community that you serve, and I’ve always felt like I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from this community,” Booth said. “This morning I stopped at the car wash on my way into work. … A lady was vacuuming her car out next to me and she said, ‘Chief!” and ran over and gave me a big hug, and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I heard you’re retiring and thank you so much for what you’ve done.'”


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