Sundance law enforcement: ‘You don’t become a police officer to be bored’
The Sundance Film Festival cast includes filmmakers, celebrities and film lovers.
And numerous law enforcement officers.
The festival is typically the busiest stretch of the year for the Park City Police Department, the agency that protects the crowds and the festival venues within the city limits. Other agencies like the Summit County Sheriff’s Office are heavily involved as well, but it is normally the Police Department in Park City that is called for a litany of festival issues.
It is almost certain there will be complaints about parking problems during Sundance as the large crowds arrive. People will also undoubtedly drink too much alcohol and make too much noise, drawing the attention of the police.
The Police Department is generally busiest during the jammed opening weekend of Sundance, but officers continue to hop throughout the 11 days of Sundance. Main Street always reaches a critical mass even as the police calls also spread through the neighborhoods. There could be belligerent people on Main Street at the same time as someone in Prospector complains about cars parked in places where they should not be.
“Unique and interesting experience,” Andrew Leatham, a Police Department captain, said as he described the work of law enforcement during Sundance.
Leatham is a crucial member of the law enforcement team that crafts the operational plans for special events like Sundance. The Police Department closely guards some of the details for security purposes, but aspects of the plans the department discusses publicly provide an intriguing glimpse at one of the critical components of the overall Sundance planning.
“You don’t become a police officer to be bored,” Leatham said, adding about Sundance, “There’s an excitement to it, even for police officers.”
Leatham said the Police Department as part of the planning for Sundance creates a temporary patrol zone separate from the ones in place the rest of the year. There are normally just two patrol zones.
The Sundance-only patrol zone covers the Main Street core. It runs, east to west, from Swede Alley to Park Avenue and, north to south, from the 900 block to the 100 block of the streets. The patrol zone is an especially busy part of Park City during Sundance. The traffic can be terrible, noisiness and drunkenness are commonplace and demonstrations sometimes require the attention of the police.
The zones are designed to ensure the Police Department is able to juggle the reports related to the festival crowds and the other calls from Parkites.
The police officers also can have a role in protecting celebrities even as the actors or actresses travel with their own security. Leatham said celebrities are not treated differently than anyone else. He said, though, the Police Department would intervene if there was a specific security threat involving a celebrity. He said there is “generally very minimal” interaction between the police and celebrities.
The Police Department taps reinforcements during Sundance even as the agency’s own officers work extensive hours. During the opening weekend, Leatham said, more than double the number of officers are scheduled to be on duty than would otherwise have shifts. Some will be conducting traffic patrols while others will be assigned to Sundance venues or Main Street. Officers will also conduct foot patrols on Main Street.
The reinforcements will come from agencies like the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General of Utah and the FBI.
“It’s big and it’s busy,” Leatham said, adding, “It requires us to bring in resources.”
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The Park City Police Department last week received reports of drivers struggling in a late-season snowstorm. The complaints were logged in various locations inside the city. The accidents did not appear to be serious.