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               Robert Stevens

 

Don’t lump good cops with bad 

Sanpete blessed with quality officers

 

6-25-2020

 

Here in Sanpete County we are fortunate for many reasons.

All around us we have beauty; our virus counts are low; we get relative peace and isolation; and our quality of life is generally very high.

Another thing we are very fortunate for is the quality of our local law enforcement. As some cities across the nation grapple with civil unrest, and officers across the country face scrutiny for use of force, here in Sanpete these situations are almost unheard of.

In fact, in the last two decades, there are only two real examples of officer-involved shootings in Sanpete. In both events, the fire came from nonlocal agencies who were on the scene assisting; and both scenarios were dangerous situations with officers either under fire themselves or during threat of direct harm.

In 2013, local law enforcement responded to the scene of a stolen pickup truck between Ephraim and Spring City. A Utah Highway Patrol Trooper came to the scene as well, in an effort to help apprehend the suspect.

After the suspect drove the stolen pickup directly towards the trooper, the trooper fired at the truck twice, one of which fragmented and hit the suspect in the arm. After the suspect was hit, officers were able to take him into custody.

In 2019, a Spring City man struggling with health issues both mental and physical essentially tried to commit suicide by cop. He fired shots from a handgun towards both a female visitor to his home and towards the police that responded afterwards. Ultimately, an out-of-area SWAT team was brought in, who later fired on the man, hitting him in the hand, after which he was apprehended.

While there are certainly multiple recorded instances of law enforcement officers in the U.S. that raise serious questions about issues like use of force, these are issues that feel distant to our rural communities. Support for local law enforcement in Sanpete is high, as it should be, since the caliber of our police force is so high.

We are blessed with not only vigilant police of good principle, but also highly trained and modern law enforcement agencies, headed up by capable leaders with droves of experience serving their communities. That service extends far beyond apprehension of legitimate criminals.

During the massive Wood Hollow fire of 2012, local law enforcement was on the scene working hard to help manage the chaos and tragedy. Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Neilson and his department spent weeks managing the emergency response in an effort to mitigate the impact of the blaze on the county, as they do each time a wildfire rears its ugly head in Sanpete.

The annual Shop with a Cop program is a local tradition that brings local law enforcement officers together with local kids to help ensure they have a good Christmas. The officers buddy up with underprivileged kids, take them to breakfast and then take them Christmas shopping for themselves and their families.

These are just a couple non-routine examples of our local law enforcement agencies serving this community, not to mention all the routine instances of police putting themselves in harm’s way as a part of their job.

In my last opinion column, I wrote that people should not lump peaceful protesters in with opportunistic looters and violent rioters. The same goes for police, most of which are just people trying to do their job, get home to their family and live their lives. In the same way it isn’t fair that a true activist be compared to someone stealing a flat screen TV from Target, it isn’t fair to compare a dutiful officer to one who has chosen to abuse his authority. Generalizations do nothing but create division.

Should citizens of the U.S. be held accountable for criminal acts? Absolutely, and that includes both violent looters and violent rogue police.

To a degree, in Sanpete we are insulated from the problems of the outside world. Our protests are made of peaceful citizens trying to make a change in the world and our streets are patrolled by officers trying to do the same thing.

We need to be thankful for that, but mindful that not every community has it as good as we do.