SALT LAKE CITY — Sim Gill announced Wednesday that he will seek a third term as Salt Lake County’s district attorney.
With Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, former Sheriff Jim Winder and former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank there to endorse him, Gill put to rest speculation that he might run for another office.
"I’m very flattered by that. But I think there’s often other people who have greater ambition for my political future than I do," Gill said with a laugh.
He said it was never his intention to use the district attorney’s office as a springboard for a higher office.
"My goal was not to come here for a short period of time and then move to some other political thing. I came here to work in a long-term relationship with my other institutional partners to make a substantive, permanent change. And because the work is still there, and I’m still excited about it, and my community has been very supportive, I’m here to finish the job," he said.
Gill said his goal is to prepare his office for Salt Lake County’s continuous population growth. To do that, he said the county needs someone willing to have "hard, honest, necessary" conversations with the community.
"It is not simply enough to throw out empty political phrases of being tough on crime, taking no prisoners rhetoric. Our community and citizens have witnessed this before, and frankly, no longer believe in them, nor in the leadership that is empty of courage, conviction, compassion or of the fear of truth that public service demands," he said.
Burbank, who has known Gill for over 20 years, said while the two didn’t always see eye to eye on some issues, he always felt that Gill would earnestly take the former chief’s viewpoint into consideration, which is something Burbank greatly valued.
He said success should be measured by how many people are not arrested or charged as opposed to those who are. Burbank praised Gill for his efforts to find alternate solutions to incarceration by meeting the needs of offenders.
Moab Police Chief Jim Winder, left, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank pose for a photo after Gill announced that he would seek a third term during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. (Photo: Pat Reavy, KSL)
"In Salt Lake County, we have individuals who have over 500 arrests in their lifetime. Do you think when we arrest them for 502 that’s going to change their behavior?" Burbank asked rhetorically.
Winder praised Gill for several of his initiatives, including coming up with the current protocol for investigating officer-involved shootings. Before the protocol, Winder said local law enforcement agencies had jurisdictional squabbles. The new system allows agencies "to investigate one of the most important functions law enforcement and the criminal justice system does, which is the death of a human being at the hands of law enforcement. It was Sim Gill who developed and prepared those documents," Winder said.
"The bottom line is he came to this job not to do something, but to do a lot," said Winder, who is now the police chief of Moab. "Sim Gill is one of the best elected officials, in my opinion, certainly in the state of Utah. I would pick him against any prosecutor in the United States."
I know what poverty feels like. I know what corruption does to a community. I know what injustice does to the loss of dignity for people of a society.
McAdams complimented Gill’s leadership and the transparency of his office.
"What I also value about Sim Gill is his honesty. This is a person of integrity who serves with honor. … He takes his job very serious and the people of Utah are lucky to have him in service."
Gill, who moved to the United States from his native India when he was 10, said part of living the American dream is the privilege of service.
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After a sometimes heated discussion, Salt Lake County leaders Tuesday unanimously approved more than $313,000 in additional funding to help the county district attorney’s office handle its skyrocketing caseload due to Operation Rio Grande.
"This is my town. I’m a public prosecutor. This is how I serve my community. When I ran here, I ran to get the job done, not as a means to another political office," he said. "It has never been about that for me. I’m very old-fashioned. And sometimes I say the best political education that I got was that I wasn’t born in this country.
"I was born in a Third World country. So while it may sound corny to some people, it really means something substantive to me. I know what poverty feels like. I know what corruption does to a community. I know what injustice does to the loss of dignity for people of a society."
Gill’s parents and family were also present for Wednesday’s announcement.