LAVERKIN – The LaVerkin Police Department has hired criminal investigator and forensic computer expert Benjamin Lee as the city’s new chief of police. He will assume the position on April 14.
“We had 10-15 applicants and he was the best candidate,” Mayor Kerry Gubler said. “He’s young, he’s got a variety of experience and is familiar with all the latest technologies. We think he’s got the enthusiasm and the skill to pursue the course that’s already been laid.”
As part of the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Lee assisted in Operation FrostyLime Squeeze, the largest child pornography investigation in state history. His work helped bring charges of 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor against a single individual; the entire operation netted 38 arrests and millions of illegal images.
One of few certified computer forensic examiners in Utah, Lee helped develop software that finds child pornography files without damaging the forensic integrity of a computer, which is now being used by investigators across the country. In 2011, he was honored as the Utah Attorney General’s Office Employee of the Year. He previously worked for the Centerville Police Department.
Lee currently resides in Syracuse, and will bring his wife and three children to LaVerkin.
“I’m very excited about moving to a small town,” Lee said. “It’s a chance to do my job on a more personal level, to know and help the people.”
“The LaVerkin Police Department does what they are supposed to do. The officers here are not ‘out to get’ anyone; they are here doing their jobs and in some instances, going above and beyond,” resident Karen Sevy said. “I just hope that does not change.”
“I sincerely hope that the new police chief will bring more neighborhood patrols into his policies,” another resident, Patti Dekker, said.
During a meeting of the LaVerkin City Council on Feb. 5, Gubler announced that the city was in the process of hiring a new chief. On Feb. 12, the city posted a notice via social media that the position was open and applicants were being sought.
Application requirements included having a minimum of 10 years of law enforcement experience, with at least five years in a supervisory role, being certified in Peace Officer Standards and Training by the Utah Department of Public Safety, and willing to live in the LaVerkin area.
Lee’s selection was announced on March 31.
Lee is replacing Chief Lloyd Watkins, who recently moved with his family to the town of Newcastle in Iron County. He will continue to serve the LaVerkin Police as an officer, but can no longer fulfill the requirements of a leadership position living more than an hour’s drive away.
“I’ve enjoyed helping people out, and that won’t stop. The thing I’m not going to miss is all the politics. The various council members have different ideas of how things should be done, and it’s tough to balance that out,” Watkins said. “We need someone else to fight those battles. I just want to go to work and not worry about all that other stuff.”
“Chief Watkins has a great bunch of officers and in my opinion, is a great leader that truly cares for the town,” resident Heather Leitner said. “He’s going to be a tough act to follow.”
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