‘Everybody has value’: new Heber police chief shares goals for 2024
Parker Sever, the new Heber City Chief of Police, spoke with KPCW about his time in the new role and his focus for 2024.
Sever joined the department in mid-October as the new police chief, taking the reins at a time of significant growth and change in the Heber Valley.
He says he’s jumped headfirst into getting to know all the officers and the community he’s pledged to serve.
“It’s been wonderful to interact with the community, to meet the officers,” he said. “I’ve been trying to meet one-on-one with each officer.”
Sever comes to Heber City after 27 years with the Hanford Police Department, serving a rural, agricultural community in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Now, with numerous members of his extended family in Utah, he felt it was time to make a move.
“For the last five or 10 years, my wife and I have known that we’ve wanted to eventually end up in Utah,” he said. “As we started looking for places, it came up that Heber City was looking for a police chief, and it seemed like a great opportunity to come here… and to be with my family and to join another great police department.”
He says he gained valuable experience over the course of his career in California. He rose through the ranks of the Hanford Police Department, including serving on the SWAT team and, later, as police chief.
“I’m not interested in bringing California to Heber City, because California has a lot of issues,” he said. “But hopefully I’ll take the positive things that I experienced there and bring them to Heber City.”
Sever points to the technology he learned about in Hanford, like license plate readers used to detect stolen vehicles and AMBER and Silver Alerts. He says they’ll help officers get information faster and won’t screen for things like driver’s license status or immigration status.
Besides advancing new technological tools in the department, Sever says one of his primary focuses is officer retention. With a high cost of living, he wants to create incentives for officers to stay in the Heber Valley, whether through affordable housing measures or programs like down payment assistance or housing stipends.
“Things of that nature, I think, can greatly help us with our retention efforts, in addition to just having a good department and a supportive community that people want to be in,” he said.
As for relationships between officers and community members, Sever says it’s critical for the department to have the skills to serve all populations in the valley. All officers complete crisis intervention training to recognize and respond to mental health crises. Several of the department’s 26 officers are bilingual in Spanish and English, and several more are proficient Spanish speakers.
Above all, Sever says he believes members of the police department should be community-minded and service-oriented. He says he tells his officers to do everything they can to provide the highest level of service to citizens.
“Everybody has value in this life, and it’s important we recognize that,” he said. “We’re putting ourselves into these horrible situations with people, for whatever reason… and we’re trying to make that situation better.”