Veteran Park City cop dons retirement badge
Rick Ryan joined the Park City Police Department in 1985 as an officer, patrolling a community that was already a mountain resort but hardly the frenetic Park City of 2018 that oftentimes keeps the force busy at all hours.
Only one officer was on patrol at any one time in the mid-1980s. There was backup available from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, but the officer in Park City was largely left on his own to keep the city safe.
Ryan, who retired on Tuesday after 32 years with the Park City agency, recalled in an interview as his last day with the department approached the early years of his career in the city. If he needed to arrest someone during a graveyard shift, perhaps a suspected drunken driver, the person would be taken into custody. He would wait at the scene for a tow truck, escort the truck to the Police Department’s tow yard with the suspect in the patrol vehicle and then drive the person to the jail in Coalville.
“You want to get the individual over to the jail, booked and back here as soon as you can get here,” Ryan said as he explained what a typical shift was like when there was only one officer on patrol.
Ryan, 63 and in the process of moving to Montana, retired as one of a dwindling number of Park City government employees who started in the 1980s, a time that garners fond memories from people who recall that era in Park City. It was after the first wave of skiing-era growth but before the blistering development and population increases of the 1990s. He plans to move to the Helena area to live close to his son, who is a police officer, and the hunting, fishing and national parks of that region.
Ryan started his law enforcement career in the Wyoming community of Green River five years before his hiring in Park City. He arrived in Park City as a patrol officer with Frank Bell as the chief of police. Ryan was promoted three times, quickly becoming a sergeant before being named a lieutenant and then a captain. He retired as the captain over operations after years as the captain over administrative functions. A captain is the No. 2-ranking position in the Police Department, and Ryan had held one of the two captain posts. He served under three police chiefs — Bell, Lloyd Evans and the incumbent, Wade Carpenter.
“It’s all I ever remember what I wanted to do,” Ryan said about police work, describing the field’s overriding ideal of serving the public. “I just didn’t think of doing anything else as a career.”
The Police Department evolved with the growing community during Ryan’s career. It is based in a purpose-built police station for the first time, and staffing levels have increased dramatically. The agency when he arrived consisted of up to 17 officers, including the department brass, and had no corps of reservists. Today’s department has 32 full-time officers and approximately 12 reservists.
Ryan’s career in Park City paralleled the growth of the community as a tourism destination. The Police Department held a critical role in Park City’s overall adjustment to becoming a popular place for skiing and summertime events. The police are on the Main Street beat to intervene when unruliness breaks out, but they are also assigned to traffic duties in response to longtime concerns about speeding and congestion.
Ryan has for years been heavily involved in the planning for the annual Sundance Film Festival, sometimes working directly with the founder Robert Redford. He and others in the Police Department also were important while crafting plans for three presidential visits — two by Bill Clinton and one by George W. Bush. He said the Secret Service tapped the Police Department for crowd control when Clinton stopped on Main Street.
“They said, basically, we need help here,” Ryan said.
He is also proud of the Police Department’s role in the successful prosecutions of the few homicides that have occurred in Park City since 1985, including the recent conviction of a man in a 2016 shooting death. He described the crucial role a Police Department has in gathering evidence that is then used by prosecutors to bring a case against a defendant. Crime in Park City provides the Police Department a range of cases alongside the more notable assignments.
“The opportunities that I had as an officer, as a sergeant, working events, then the Olympics came along,” he said.
The day-to-day work, though, is also prioritized. The department practices a kind of law enforcement known as community-oriented policing that aims to ensure there is support for the police in the general population. He said Park City, the community, has supported the Police Department throughout his time with the agency.
“The emphasis was always to be involved in the community and have the community’s support,” Ryan said. “If you don’t have that, you don’t succeed at all. You fail.”
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