I am a deputy prosecuting attorney with West Valley City. I have handled hundreds of misdemeanor cases investigated by the West Valley City Police Department. I count the city's police officers among my colleagues and friends, and this past week I became very proud to work with them.
My office is just down the hall from the police department. On Monday morning, just as I settled in for another workday, I heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire ring out from the lobby just below my office. As my coworkers and I ran to hide, we heard the loud footsteps of police officers running the other direction toward the crisis.
Within minutes, the scene had been secured. The man who had brandished a gun in my place of business was in custody with non-life-threatening injuries, and police had begun sweeping the area to make sure there were no other lingering threats. I texted my family and told them, with confidence, that I was safe.
Soon after, the police determined what had happened and immediately turned that story over to the news networks outside. By the time I got home and all the details had been reported, the ordeal probably seemed small to anyone who wasn't there. Only the gunman had been injured and he would live. No one dead. No big deal.
In the comments section of the Tribune story online, people were already making the usual donut jokes, and even concocting wild conspiracy theories based on recent allegations of police misconduct in West Valley. Not a single person had praised the officers for spending a harrowing day protecting me and my colleagues from harm.
No one seemed to have any concept of the trauma those who work in my building went through that morning, or any appreciation for the hard work, quick-thinking, and outright bravery it took for West Valley police to get that dangerous and volatile situation under control.
Police work is often a thankless job, but this incident reminded me that, when the chips are down, officers are our first line of defense against dangerous people. They should be applauded for the courage it takes to run toward gunfire, or stand between an unpredictable threat and its potential victims.
Of course, all officers are human beings, and human beings make mistakes. Those mistakes should be pointed out when they occur, and appropriately addressed. But amidst that process, we should remember that, by and large, police officers are good people doing a difficult but essential job, and doing it the best they can under constant scrutiny.
Police officers are there to protect and serve us, and when they do that job well as they did for me and my colleagues on that Monday morning we shouldn't forget to thank them.
Daniel R. Strong is deputy prosecuting attorney for West Valley City.