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The City Journals

Granite Park Jr. High students see firsthand how police department operates

Nov 26, 2019 02:35PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Sgt. Bill Hogan explains the switches on a police motorcycle to GPJHS students. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

On Nov. 12, five Granite Park Junior High School (GPJHS) eighth graders got an up close and personal tour of the South Salt Lake Police Department.

"Recently, the counselors asked students what your dream job would be. These five put down law enforcement," said Sharla Bynum, GEAR UP coordinator at GPJHS. 

She is trying to find partners that will allow students to get a sense of career opportunities.

Sgt. Bill Hogan and Officer Chad Keller of the Community Resource Division conducted the tour.

Officer Romrell Memorial Car

The first thing the students wanted to see was the Officer David Romrell Memorial Car. One of the students asked if this was his car. Hogan explained that it was not.

"Officer Romrell was in a loaner that night because a couple of weeks earlier he was involved in a head-on collision while chasing a suspect," Hogan said. He went on to say, "After the collision and his airbag deployed, Officer Romrell still got out of his car, jumped over the hood, and chased the suspect who was now running. He arrested the suspect."

Students took turns getting their picture by the car.

Records Division

"I want to show you all of the jobs that are behind the scenes that makes our department work," Hogan said as he explained the records division. 

He explained that they handle requests by patrol officer, detectives, lawyers, and the media. They also handle body and dash camera footage. 

Hogan mentioned that for every hour of body or dash camera footage, it takes the clerks eight hours to edit it before release. The footage must be edited to make sure privacy laws are followed since the raw footage might have the officer asking for information like birth dates or health information.

Victim Advocate

The students talked to one of four victim advocates in the department. Their job is to help victims through the legal process. 

"Having to go to court and face your attacker can be very difficult," Hogan said.

The victim advocate told the students that his position requires a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or other counseling fields.

Detective room

Since there were detectives working, the students didn't spend much time in the detective room. Hogan mentioned that detectives do the more long-term investigation, which can be rewarding because you get to resolve the case. However, you also continue to get work piling up on your desk as patrol feeds you cases.

"You can't start off as a detective. Everyone starts out in the patrol division because that is where you start to learn investigation skills and how to talk with people and work with them," Hogan explained.

As the students left the detective room, Hogan pointed out a unique aspect of the interview rooms. The table is in the corner because when they talk to individuals, they don't want a physical barrier.

"We are here to help. It is not us and them," Hogan said.

At this point, when asked about the tour so far, Maryam, one of the students said, "I love it."

Patrol Division

The students spent some time in the daily briefing room. Hogan explained there is one officer per car and that the dispatch (SSL gets their calls from the Valley Emergency Communications Center like most agencies in the valley) prioritize the calls. Sometimes only one officer receives the call, other times, multiple officers get the call depending on the severity.

"If you want to be a cop, the time to start is now by staying out of criminal trouble," Hogan told the students.

Since you must be 21 to join the force, it is important to have a plan after high school graduation like getting a bachelor’s degree since some agencies pay more for college degrees.

An evidence tech came in to talk with the students. She burst the TV bubble as she explained how detailed the process is. For example, while the computer provides a rough fingerprint match, it takes human comparison to make the final decision.

"You might be out on a crime scene for 22 hours straight. You might be called at 2 a.m. to get to a crime scene," she said.

The evidence room is very secure. There are only three people in the department who have access so that the chain of custody is clear, and the integrity of the evidence is maintained. When an officer has a piece of evidence, they place it in an evidence locker. Once the officer closes the door, they cannot reopen it. The items can only be removed in the evidence room.

Much of the actual forensic work is done off site at the Utah Crime Lab.

Tools of the trade

The tour ended with the students having some hands-on experience.

The students learned firsthand why physical fitness is important as they tried to hold a riot shield or swing a battering ram. 

Out in the garage, they loved looking at the motorcycles, but not hearing the siren. They also tried on a SWAT protective vest. 

On the way back to school, they all said they were still interested in law enforcement.