Sheriff’s office used inappropriate, heavy-handed tactics
December 7, 2013
On Nov. 24, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office raided a high school graduation party in western Summit County. The raid culminated in hours-long detention of scores of minors and the arrests of 16 or more "adult minors" (over the age of 18 but younger than 21). As parents who live in Summit County, we are deeply concerned about the tactics used by the Sheriff and the impact events of this nature have on our community.
The handling of this situation by the Sheriff’s Office involved the use of over-the-top tactics reminiscent of storm troopers. Keep in mind this was, by Sheriff Edmunds’ own admission, an underage drinking party not a crack house or riot. To address this perceived problem, the Sheriff’s Office felt it necessary to seal off a home of a law abiding citizen to procure a search warrant, enlist the services of three outside law enforcement agencies, employ a massive show of force including at least one police dog, and, rather than issue citations, arrest any person over the age of 18 who they believed may have been drinking. Sixteen or more of the kids in attendance were taken to the Summit County Jail where they were detained for several hours before being released.
While detained in the home and in the jail, the parents and the attorneys for these kids were denied all contact with them. This is how Sheriff Edmunds chose to handle this matter, despite the fact that most, if not all, of the kids had either parents or other responsible adults at the scene asking to assume custody of their children. There appeared to be at least 30 or more private vehicles waiting outside the residence to pick up their children.
In an article that appeared in The Park Record about this incident, Sheriff Edmunds claimed to have "stewardship over these kids to make sure we are protecting them often from themselves." In light of the way the Sheriff’s Office conducted itself, Sheriff Edmunds’ comments provide insight into his misapprehension of his role as Sheriff. As responsible parents we, not Sheriff Edmunds, have legal stewardship over our children and we unfortunately perceive a necessity to protect them from the Sheriff when his office fails to act in a responsible manner. If Sheriff Edmunds and his deputies were true "stewards," they would never have arrested these kids. These arrest records may affect future employment and admission to institutions of higher education.
To add injury to insult, some of the Sheriff’s Office deputies were rude and vulgar to our children and to many of the parents. They were liberal in their use of the "F" word, swore directly at the kids and referred to others as "idiots." They were often rude and condescending to parents who were trying to pick up their kids.
In the Park Record statement, Sheriff Edmunds seems to take pride in the fact that several other law enforcement agencies were called in to assist in sealing off this home and arresting these kids, making sure not one escaped the long arm of the law. These agencies included the Park City Police Department, the Utah Highway Patrol and the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office. Parents who were present talked to those officers and they appeared somewhat embarrassed to be there just to help arrest kids at a graduation party.
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As parents we want our kids to trust and respect law enforcement, not distrust and fear them. Tactics such as those used on Nov. 24, 2013, do nothing but alienate and erode confidence and trust in the Sheriff’s office. As citizens and taxpayers in this community, we have the right to demand that we and our children be treated with dignity and respect and that our public servants conduct themselves professionally and with moderation.
As citizens and parents, it is our responsibility to remind the Sheriff he represents the community, and our expectation of police services are to be characterized as moderate and respectful. That didn’t happen here. It needs to change.
We are asking to meet with Sheriff Edmunds in a public forum to hear his explanation and allow all affected parents and young adults to express themselves on this subject.