Guest Editorial: Sheriff responds to concerns about underage party bust
December 13, 2013
I read with great interest your guest editorial of 7 December 2013 in The Park Record, and was appalled by its tenor and frankly its slanderous nature. Indeed, one of the most basic tenets of community-oriented policing is responsiveness to the community. Few, if any, law enforcement agencies have been more responsive to its constituents than the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. One of our greatest contributions to community support, our Citizen Advisory Board (CAB), is comprised of residents from the three geographic regions of the county. The CAB regularly meets to review and protect public interests. These capable volunteers advise me concerning issues as diverse as: community perception, enforcement goals, enforcement processes, community outreach and more. This particular incident has not been discussed at the CAB; however, similar incidents have been. The CAB has never offered criticism to me regarding our enforcement efforts concerning youth alcohol parties. In stark contrast to your criticisms, the CAB has been congratulatory about our efforts to keep young people safe. The CAB frequently has an impact on policy development at the Sheriff’s Office, so its input relative to this matter will be sought.
According to a number of government surveys, Summit County has a disproportionately high number of young people who engage in unlawful alcohol consumption. As a professional peace officer, who has spent the majority of a twenty-year career serving Summit County, I can attest that unlawful alcohol consumption is a major problem in our community. During my tenure as sheriff, we have experienced or investigated: (1) a documented youth death from alcohol poisoning, (2) an alcohol-facilitated gang rape, (3) a drive-by shooting—stemming from a quarrel at a youth alcohol party—in the Redstone area (the youths actually shot up the wrong house), (4) numerous underage DUI crashes following youth alcohol parties, and (5) countless felony drug and stolen vehicle cases as a result of youth alcohol parties. At one recent party in the Snyderville Basin, intoxicated youths deprived a man of a $20,000 watch and his vehicle. It is for these very reasons that government has forbidden the use of alcohol for anyone under the age of twenty-one, and my office has made great efforts to curb this behavior. To suggest that youth alcohol parties promote anything but lawlessness and debauchery is beyond naïve.
As for deputies engaging in crude or demeaning behavior during the course of enforcement operations, there are mechanisms in place to address such concerns. I have received no official complaint from anyone associated with this incident. If I have demonstrated nothing else during my tenure, I believe I have demonstrated that I am not adverse to holding deputies responsible for what they do, or what they fail to do. Even my most ardent detractors will concede this.
You describe these young people as "kids." Many of the individuals involved—according to the state of Utah—are adults; and all are nearly adults. I have two daughters about the same age as some of these young people. We routinely discuss responsibility with them, but more importantly, we hold them accountable for their actions. As parents, I believe we have a responsibility to raise decent, respectable children. That is not to imply that anyone is perfect. I believe youthful offenders should be treated with greater deference than older offenders, simply because they are not fully developed. Deference, however, should never be confused with justification. Since neither of you have contacted me regarding this incident, let me publically invite you to do so.
Finally, your use of the term "storm troopers" is particularly offensive to me, because it is synonymous with one of the world’s most notorious mass murderers. Both of my grandfathers volunteered to fight the Nazis during WWII. Furthermore, the Summit County sergeant on duty during the incident in question is a United States Air Force chief master sergeant, who has served numerous combat deployments. I suspect your use of such an offensive term was hyperbole, but shame on you for besmirching men of valor in such a manner. Like the degenerate defense attorneys at Nuremberg, you, sirs, are attempting to defend the indefensible.
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