Natalie Pinkney: I’m running for Salt Lake County Council to ensure heroes like my dad receive the support and housing they deserve

Our community must do better thanking and caring for those who have dedicated their lives to our safety.

“Will you do everything in your power to make sure that vets have housing?” a veteran asked me as I sat at a community event hearing his struggle to find a place to live. He had signed up to become a protector, only to feel abandoned by the same government he served, left out on the street.

That day, I heard many similar stories — not just from veterans, but also from firefighters, police officers and correctional officers. They all spoke of dedicating their careers to ensuring our safety, yet now they were uncertain if they could find a place to call home. Their stories of struggling with housing, homelessness, PTSD and mental health issues resonated deeply with me, reminding me of my protector, my father.

After serving in the Air Force, my dad was one of 200 applicants vying to be a Clark County Correctional and Probation Officer. Despite the competition, he applied to share his story and help others see how they could lead better lives. When he was selected for the POST Academy, he was honored to serve as a protector of our county. He began his career in juvenile probation before becoming a juvenile correctional officer, a role he held for most of his career. I was always proud of my father’s work as a peace officer. We would visit the local library to pick out movies for the young men in his care. He wanted them to see that they could aspire to more, beyond the walls of the juvenile rehabilitation center.

My father grew up in an abusive home surrounded by violence, believing he was destined to follow the same path. But he wanted more from life than violence, drugs and hopelessness. That’s why he became a law enforcement officer, serving his family and country. From military police in the Air Force to 20 years in corrections and probation, he dedicated himself to improving the world.

As a protector, my father saw and experienced a lot. I remember nights when he came home having made breakthroughs with the young men he hoped never to see again. Other days, he would talk about the traumatic incidents that changed him. Like veterans, public safety officers and personnel suffer from PTSD and other mental health disorders. One in three officers will endure these challenges, as they continue to serve, hoping to create a better reality.

My dad often shared his thoughts on justice and what it meant to be a good protector. He always emphasized that many officers were deeply invested in juvenile rehabilitation because “if you can reach them there, you can save their lives.” His passion mirrored the stories I heard from others at the community event — individuals who give their hearts to their communities.

My dad’s career in law enforcement funded my education at Marquette University and allowed me to attend graduate school at the University of Utah. When I was elected to the South Salt Lake City Council and discussions about the role of law enforcement arose, I seized the opportunity to highlight protectors like my dad. The creation of the Civilian Review Board was a collaborative effort by the Council, the former police chief and the mayor. We knew community healing meant fostering mutual respect, accountability and trust between residents and officers. We believe in investing in people, including our protectors. The board’s quarterly reports highlight cases reviewed and spotlight officers who have shown their dedication to our community.

If you ask my dad, he’d say his brothers are other law enforcement officers, firefighters and police. When he retired, he was proud to receive a pension for police and peace officers from his union. He served his country with pride, but our family quickly realized that, like many other families of officers, the struggles didn’t end with retirement.

Even with a pension, my dad struggles to find stable housing. He has a loving family to support him, but I often think of those who don’t have that safety net. Similar to the veteran who approached me, sharing that he had a housing voucher but still couldn’t secure a home, my dad’s situation highlights a systemic issue. The lack of housing exacerbates the mental strain on protectors who have already given so much. They need true support for their health and wellness, both mentally and physically.

That’s why I’m running for Salt Lake County Council — to ensure that heroes and good protectors like my dad receive the support and housing they deserve. Our community must do better thanking and caring for those who have dedicated their lives to our safety.

On this Father’s Day, let’s honor our protectors by committing to provide them with the security and respect they need — Happy Father’s Day to my dad and to all the dads who protect us.

(Photo courtesy of Natalie Pinkney) Natalie Pinkney

Natalie Pinkney is running as a Democrat for Salt Lake County Council, At-Large C, and she currently serves on the South Salt Lake City Council At-Large.

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