Thumbs down for no heads up
Red Card Roberts
Park Record columnist
If you spend enough time in a hospital, you’ll eventually hear a page over a loudspeaker that goes something like this: “Trauma one, ETA five minutes.”
This advanced warning allows the medical team to get in place and prepare for what’s to come. The announcements ensure everyone is on standby and helps guarantee the best possible outcome.
The idea of getting a “heads up” isn’t limited to health care. Most people can appreciate receiving an advanced notice that might make their job a bit easier. “Heads up, the CEO is popping in today, ” or “heads up, the printer isn’t working” are professional courtesies that allow those who are not in-the-know to plan accordingly.
But when a “heads up” can make your job and the community you serve safer, it’s no longer just a professional courtesy —it’s imperative communication.
Last week, federal agents arrested four undocumented workers in Park City. Rumors of targeted raids quickly followed, as did a heightened sense of fear.
This column isn’t about illegal immigrants or Park City’s workforce, or our economy, or even the arrests. It’s about a failure to communicate, which very easily could have turned into a devastating headline.
Both our police chief and our sheriff have confirmed they were informed after the fact that federal agents were in Park City to arrest people early Friday morning. Both have stated they had no prior knowledge of the situation, no “heads up” was given — a move that is as unbelievable as it is unsafe.
While my law enforcement knowledge might be limited to what I see on “Law & Order,” I can say with a fair degree of certainty that bad guys usually don’t want to be caught.
They might flee resulting in a high-speed chase. They could take someone hostage in an act of desperation. They might do any number of things that puts the public at risk. Isn’t it good law-enforcement practice to have our sheriff and police chief made aware prior to these possibilities playing out? Shouldn’t they get the courtesy of being informed, just in case they have to assist?
I’m going to guess federal agents don’t knock softly and wait for someone to answer the door and invite them inside. There’s probably some banging, demanding and shouting involved.
If, at 5 a.m., I was woken from my slumber by the sounds of fists pounding on my neighbor’s door, people yelling and dogs barking, I might call 911 and report something like, “I think someone is trying to break into my neighbor’s house.”
If that were to happen, local law enforcement would respond, with guns drawn. If the first thing they see is a bunch of unrecognizable armed men surrounding a house, a pretty dangerous situation has just been created. Friendly fire is a possibility, as is an innocent civilian being shot in the confusion, not to mention the bad guys getting away.
And what if those agents had needed backup? What if they’d pounded down a door and 15 armed criminals were inside willing to shoot it out? Their only option would have been to call 911, explain to the dispatcher who they were and what was going on and wait for help to arrive. Bullets can move a lot faster than a police car.
Thankfully, Friday’s arrests didn’t result in tragic, unintended consequences. But that doesn’t mean everything went well. It means everyone got lucky. Local law enforcement doesn’t have the authority or the right to interfere with a federal operation. But it does seem to me they should know about them in advance.
And that would have helped quell the concerns in our community as well as contained the rumors. When our local law enforcement is kept out of the loop, when they don’t know who is being arrested or why or when, how can they build trust and reassure the public?
Wouldn’t it have been far more comforting to hear the facts from our local guys immediately following the arrests, rather than hearing they too were unsure of the details? They could not deny there were raids, or confirm the number of people involved much until later in the day. By that time, the anxiety level and the rumors were uncontainable.
A simple “heads up” could have eased the concern as much as it could help prevent a tragedy.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.