Utah Fraternal Order of Police recognizes Summit County Sheriff
In February of 2015, less than two months into his run as sheriff, Justin Martinez was credited with successfully negotiating an armed suspect’s surrender in eastern Summit County.
The suspect, Jared York, led Morgan County deputies on a high-speed pursuit that turned into a foot-chase and crossed over county lines. Summit County deputies were following the suspect as he ran through Henefer with a handgun when Martinez encountered him in a wooded field. The suspect dropped to his knees and threatened suicide before surrendering after more than 10 minutes of negotiating with Martinez
Martinez’ actions during the standoff, along with the subtle changes he has ushered in at the Summit County Sheriff’s Office since taking over, led his staff to nominate him as Sheriff of the Year with the Utah Fraternal Order of Police (UFOP), according to Lt. Andrew Wright. The Fraternal Order of Police is a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,700 officers in Utah.
"We nominated him because of his dedication to the community and his compassion for people in general," Wright said of Martinez. "He wants us to have a much more passionate and community-centric law enforcement agency.
"Of the three sheriffs I have worked under, he is the most engaged with his employees and community," he said.
Wright said the UFOP selection committee recognized these traits in Martinez and chose him as the Sheriff of the Year for 2015. He received the award over the weekend.
"I was very humbled and very honored that I have staff that think highly enough of me that they would nominate me. It’s an honor to be recognized by my staff and the state because it is a pretty prestigious award," Martinez said.
Martinez joined the Sheriff’s Office from Draper City more than a decade ago. In 2014, Martinez was elected to replace former sheriff Dave Edmunds after defeating his opponent with more than 67 percent of the vote. Edmunds had previously served as the department head for 12 years.
While in the post, Martinez said he has attempted to shift the department’s philosophy to create a more community-centric law enforcement agency where officials are "working with the community and not against them."
"This office has just taken it in and they have really responded," he said. "I put out a vision and they have just executed it to perfection and think that forward thinking is part of it."
Last year, Martinez started a monthly program to provide the public with an opportunity to interact with law enforcement officials in a more casual setting. He said ‘Coffee with a Cop’ has been widely successful.
The community has been extremely receptive of his views, Martinez said, adding that he believes they were looking for a change. However, he said he was unsure how employees within the department would respond to his approach.
"I didn’t know how the officers were going to feel about it because we are a creatures of habit," Martinez said. "But it has been extremely well received both internally and externally. We get, on a bi-weekly if not weekly basis, calls from people saying ‘thank you for this deputy they did this for me,’ or ‘thanks for the change in the Sheriff’s Office.’ It’s very rare that we get that person calling up who is unhappy with us.
"I couldn’t be more proud and I think this award is just a manifestation of that," he said.
Chief Deputy Frank Smith said Martinez’s award and recognition from the state is further proof of the impact and buy-in he has had as sheriff.
"He is being recognized statewide for a change in the philosophy and for a first-year sheriff to win something like this, it shows the impact he has made on the entire state," Smith said. "And this is just an indicator of what is to come."
Jennifer McDonald, a self-described lifelong Republican, was selected as the Summit County Republican Party chair last week.