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Utah's new top cop tasked with ‘policing the police’ embraces scrutiny

Posted at 6:04 PM, Aug 07, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Public Safety has sworn in a new director of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

Maj. Travis Rees will be tasked with the training, investigation, and discipline of approximately 9,000 officers.

Rees has spent the last two years training police in Dubai. He’s now glad to be reunited with his family in Utah. He previously retired as deputy chief of the West Jordan Police Department.

“I don’t want to let the state of Utah down,” Rees said. “There’s a lot of consequences to bad police work, and we need to make sure it’s the best as possible... We affect people’s lives every day, and so we have to be held to the highest standards.”

DPS Commissioner Jess Anderson acknowledged the POST Director selection process has been bumpy, with the last candidate to almost receive the position not getting the job because of an investigative report published by FOX 13 News.

Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby was within days of his swearing-in ceremony when it was abruptly postponed and eventually canceled.

Rigby had been reported to POST for the alleged bullying and intimidation of an officer who raised concerns related to use of force by Chief Dave Booth of the Heber City Police Department. The interaction was caught on camera.
“As the future POST Director, don’t you think the public has a right to know that you’ve been reported to POST?” asked FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets.

Rigby declined to comment.

“For us to hit the pause button, back up several times, and make sure we do get it right? It only helped us,” Commissioner Anderson said.

Once Rigby’s appointment fell through, Rees was recommended by POST Council and reportedly went through “the most thorough” DPS background check in the history of Utah POST directors.

“Investigators were all over me,” Rees laughed. “I think they felt extra pressure. I think they always take it seriously, but yeah. There was definitely extra pressure I’m sure this time. I felt it! … We should be scrutinized, and we should be under the microscope. It’s uncomfortable at times, but it’s part of our job.”

Rees went on to say he plans to make Utah law enforcement the best in the country. He’s promised fair, thorough, and objective investigations with a high level of transparency so people can trust officers.

He said he will approach the new job the way he’s always approached jobs in law enforcement: by listening, learning, and improving every day.

“When we do have bad circumstances where officers do bad things, I take it personal, because I’ve dedicated my whole life to this profession,” Rees said. “I don’t like when people take away from it."

Earlier this year, Rigby considered filing a lawsuit against the state for removing him from consideration for the POST Director position despite being appointed by DPS and approved by Governor Spencer Cox.

On Friday, attorney Blake Hamilton told FOX 13 News he would need to check with his client to see if they still plan to move forward with a case.

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