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Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby says farewell to work in Heber Valley

jared rigby.jpg
KPCW
Outgoing Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby

It’s Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby’s last week before he takes a state job. He says he’s leaving the department in good hands. 

Weeks after he was named the next director of Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, Sheriff Jared Rigby gave the Wasatch County Council his official letter of resignation. He begins his new role overseeing statewide training, certifications and internal investigations next week.

Rigby describes POST work as multi-faceted. He says he’ll treat the job as a support system for law enforcement agencies, with crucial skills in training and resources like mental health support for officers. He’ll also be at the helm of personnel reviews in misconduct cases.

He says his role in upholding law enforcement accountability may change, but not his approach. He says he’ll strive to balance the public’s right to the truth, presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, and the long-established system of local and state agencies checking and balancing each other.

“It takes each of those pieces, each of those agencies and each of those investigations, to really help the community feel like they can trust what's what investigation is going on and what really happened there. It's just important for all of us to remember that there is a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.”

He says overall, he has confidence in the character and good intentions of Utah’s officers, deputies, troopers and other law enforcement.

“They have families that they're working to take care of. They have a real vested interest in doing well and taking care of people. That's why they got into the profession. There can be 1% or less, just like there are in any profession, that make very poor decisions, or their intent is less than admirable and honorable, and we do need to find those individuals, and then they need to be held accountable.”

Rigby’s letter of resignation triggered the official process to select the next sheriff, who will serve for two years until a special election takes place.

The Wasatch County Republican Party will name an appointee on January 17. While Rigby is the chair of the county Republicans, he says he won’t make that decision on his own. It’s up to the party’s central committee of about 80 party officers and precinct leaders. The county council will then confirm that selection.

In the meantime, Undersheriff Josh Probst will handle sheriff’s duties for up to 45 days. Rigby supports his bid to be the next sheriff, citing Probst’s experience, but says he will support whomever the party nominates.

Rigby says community outreach, children’s safety in schools and his deputies’ wide reach across the county are his agency’s strengths.

In 2021, Wasatch County declared itself a second amendment sanctuary.

Rigby, who wrote the ordinance that officially stated county government would support the right to own guns, says it helped the county localize control over how it addresses weapons. While he calls the move largely symbolic, he says it came at the will of the public.

“The bottom line is that if there were federal officers that were coming in, they needed to come to me as the sheriff, and they needed to explain what it is that they're doing. And that is a piece of state rights, it's a piece of what the sheriff's job is as being the head elected law enforcement official at the county level that has arrest powers and helps people protect their constitutional rights.”

As he leaves, challenges include staffing. He says as the state’s fastest growing county’s population increases, so does the need for deputies.

To begin 2023, Rigby says around eight of the agency’s 10 job openings are for deputies. He hopes the department will find experienced candidates, whose salaries can start above $30 an hour.

As Rigby departs, he says the majority of the sheriff’s $12.5 million budget goes toward patrol and running the county jail. Each of those require $4 million for the year.

Rigby said he’ll be around the area. His family will continue to live in Wasatch County, in large part because he and his wife don’t want to uproot their lives in the Heber Valley. He also says he’ll remain involved in his other community roles, such as with Wasatch County Republicans.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.