Provo • The first woman to hold the position of chief investigator at the Utah County Attorney’s Office is hoping to be a mentor to other women working in law enforcement after she worked her way from a corrections officer to deputy to her new post over nearly three decades, the Daily Herald reported.
Patty Johnston was selected by Utah County Attorney David Leavitt after she served in law enforcement for 26 years and was an investigator with the division for almost 15 years.
Starting out at the Utah County Jail was eye-opening, Johnston said. She realized the inmates “are not bad people, they just made really bad choices.”
Johnston was able to interview two police officers involved in a 1998 shooting, and those interviews were reviewed repeatedly as the shooting was litigated for almost 10 years, officials said.
“I had no idea what to do. I wasn’t trained, I was completely lost and this was so important and I was not prepared for it,” she said. “That very night, I said, ‘I will never be unprepared for this again. I will do whatever it takes to be prepared.’”
Johnston left the sheriff’s office in 2005 to become an investigator with the attorney’s office, which is tasked with determining whether or not an officer-involved shooting is justified, officials said.
Johnston has already created investigation guidelines for officer-involved shootings and has plans to provide sergeant training and educational opportunities for the community.
“We kind of police the police. We are the agency that holds them accountable,” she said. “We are responsible to the community. If we are going to take the lives of community members, we need to be accountable. I take that really, really seriously.”
Leavitt said he hopes the investigators at the division can help law enforcement agencies pursue complex crimes that might need more support and resources.
“She’s got the relationships that she can utilize to bring the right people in and she’s got the same vision to make that happen,” he said.