Mary Ford, Park City detective, retires after 30 years as crime fighter

Mary Ford, a retiring Park City detective, investigated some of Park City's most notable crimes over the past 30 years, including homicides and white collar cases. She says Parkites have "high expectations" of the Police Department. Jay Hamburger/Park Record

A longtime Park City detective is investigating what to do when she leaves the Police Department.

Mary Ford, a member of the force since Halloween in 1983, plans to retire at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. She has been in the Police Department a little more than 30 years, as the department grew alongside the community in personnel, equipment and sophistication. Ford spent nearly her entire Police Department career as a detective, moving from a patrol officer to an investigator in 1987. She is, by a wide margin, the most experienced detective in the department. Ford and her husband have lived in Wasatch County for seven years after residing in the Snyderville Basin. Her two sons were raised locally.

Ford is well known in local law enforcement circles for her work on behalf of crime victims who are women and children, and she has also been heavily involved in high-profile cases like the 2003 shooting death of a man in Park Meadows and white-collar investigations. She hopes people she dealt with see her as having treated them fairly.

"You catch that case. You work it," she said in an interview, adding that she enjoys the variety of crimes a Park City detective handles. "We’re generalists. We do it all."

Ford arrived in Park City from the state police in Connecticut. She recalled Park City circa 1983 being a far different community than nowadays. There was not a stoplight in the city, she said, and Deer Valley Resort was still relatively new. Over the years, she said, crime fighting has changed in Park City as the city grew.

She said the Police Department in recent years has investigated a higher number of white collar cases than it did during the early part of her career. Embezzlement and mortgage fraud claims have risen, she said. The "abundance of money" in Park City has made white collar crime more prevalent than it is in other smaller communities, Ford said, commending the Police Department’s white collar investigative work.

Rick Ryan, the department’s captain over investigations, has worked with Ford since he began his Park City career in 1985, describing Ford as "tenacious about making sure she did everything she could for the victim."

"I don’t think there’s anything she didn’t have the ability to investigate, no matter what the case was," Ryan said, highlighting Ford’s work in the investigations of the homicides of Patricia Blanchard and Michael Hirschey as well as numerous child abuse and sexual assault cases.

The police in Park City work in a community with a diverse group of people living in the city or visiting. She said the Police Department, for a small agency, must regularly assist or investigate people in vastly different economic situations and people of different cultures.

"The police officers here in town need to have that finesse," Ford said.

Ryan said Ford succeeded working with the various sorts of people the police encounter.

"She has always tried to be connected to the community. It keeps you in touch with what’s going on," Ryan said.

Ford has long been interested in cases involving women and child victims. She said she is pleased with the progress made in the community, including the successes of the Peace House and the Children’s Justice Center. The Police Department also has a victim advocate, she noted.

"We just lacked resources for women and children. Women and, especially, children, have always been my main concern or focus," Ford said.

She said she would have liked to have cracked a missing-person case dating to the 1970s. A 19-year-old man named Darrel Nichols disappeared in the spring of 1973 under suspicious circumstances, according to the police. The Police Department still lists the disappearance as a cold case, and Ford is the contact person for people with information.

Ford has worked with three chiefs of police — Frank Bell for upward of 14 years, Lloyd Evans for 11 years and the current chief of police, Wade Carpenter. Ford said Bell encouraged her to "explore and get involved in issues in the community I got a lot of fulfillment from." Evans and Carpenter allowed her to continue that work, she said.

"I think the community has high expectations of us. They put a lot of faith into us," Ford said.

Ford appeared at a Park City Council meeting on Thursday, receiving a standing ovation as Mayor Jack Thomas read a resolution honoring her. Police officers, investigators and prosecutors were in the City Council chambers for the honor. Ford’s family was there as well. Ford told the audience her family supported her as a police officer and that she loves the community.

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