Matt Gwynn, who joined the Roy Police Department in 2003 and had been serving as a sergeant, was elevated to chief on Tuesday, replacing the outgoing Carl Merino, who retired after six years as chief. A big focus going forward, Gwynn said, will be on the officers themselves.
“Priorities for me are recruitment, retention and morale,” said Gwynn, who also serves as the District 29 Utah House representative.
The Roy Police Department, like many others, faces turnover, in part due to officers leaving for higher-paying posts elsewhere. Pay isn’t the only issue, though, and Gwynn said he’ll work with city leaders on a strategy to keep officers in place. The inability to quickly replace departing officers creates a larger workload for those who remain, which can lead to morale issues. Moreover, short staffing creates a police force that’s more reactive to problems, not proactive, the ideal.
The Roy Police Department, with 39 sworn officers, is the third-largest law enforcement agency in Weber County after the Weber County Sheriff’s Office and the Ogden Police Department. Some of the more common issues, Gwynn said, are domestic violence and property crime, and the department also deals fairly regularly with people with addiction and mental health issues.
Gwynn will also aim for a collaborative approach, keeping in mind his ties with rank-and-file officers as both a patrol and investigative sergeant. “As chief administrator for the department, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we’re a team,” he said.
And he has no intention to charge into the post with sweeping proposals for change. Any big shift would be done in consultation with other department staffers. “I’m not coming in to make any arbitrary change,” Gwynn said.
Gwynn, a Republican who lives in Farr West, was elected last year to the District 29 Utah House seat, which covers much of northwestern Weber County and part of Box Elder County. He previously served as a member of the Farr West City Council and, in that capacity, on the board of the Weber Fire District, which he said gave him the administrative experience for the top spot in the Roy Police Department.
As an elected official, Gwynn investigated whether serving as Roy’s police chief would violate the federal Hatch Act and received assurances from Utah House and City of Roy legal reps that there would be no conflict. The Hatch Act, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, limits political activities of some government employees who work with federally funded programs. The Roy Police Department, Gwynn said, gets very little funding from the feds.
The killing of George Floyd last year by a Minneapolis police officer prompted nationwide protests and demonstrations focused on the use of force by police officers. Gwynn, though, defended Roy police and said he doesn’t see excessive force as a problem among officers in the department.
Debate in the Utah House on police reform earlier this year focused on making sure departments use best practices and he said the Roy Police Department already meets the standards. “I think we’re light-years ahead when it comes to training,” he said.
Likewise, the force has strong community support in Roy. “We have got a community that supports us,” he said.
Roy City Manager Matt Andrews said 10 people applied for the police chief post, two internal and eight external candidates. A six-member committee interviewed the top five candidates and Andrews and the Roy city attorney handled interviews for the two finalists. The Roy City Council on Tuesday approved the selection of Gwynn.