Sandy Police Department rolling out new position focused on parks and trails
Oct 24, 2019 03:46PM
By Justin Adams
An assault in Dimple Dell Park made clear the need for police officers dedicated to patrolling Sandy's many parks and trails. (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
Starting this month, Sandy residents who frequent the city’s many parks and trails may notice an increased police presence.
After a Sandy woman was sexually assaulted along one of the trails in Dimple Dell Park earlier this year, many residents wondered why there isn’t much of a police presence in the massive 650-acre park, explained Sandy Police Chief Bill O’Neal. In response, the police department made creating a new park officer position a priority during the city’s budget process this summer.
Thanks to a property tax increase during that budget process, two new park officer positions were created, and they will be active starting Nov. 1.
The officers, Jake Olsen and Graham Tinius, were already employed by the department as regular officers, and jumped at the chance to be a part of the new unit, according to Deputy Chief Greg Severson.
“[Tinius] has some past medical training that might be helpful. He’s been attending Granite Community Council meetings and Dimple Dell advisory meetings on his own. Has brought a lot of great ideas to the table,” said Severson.
The two officers will be working closely with the city’s parks and recreation department to not only respond to crimes that happen within the parks and trails, but hopefully prevent some of them as well.
Some of the most common forms of crime the city sees in the parks are related to vandalism, drugs and homeless encampments.
Education and public relations will also be a big part of the officers’ new job, according to O’Neal.
“They’ll be educating the public on what the rules are or asking them if they’ve seen anything suspicious,” he said.
The officers may also serve as the first responders in some search and rescue scenarios, as they’ll frequently be up in Sandy’s watershed area, such as the popular Bell Canyon area.
“We’re going to be up there long before rescue personnel can get up there,” O’Neal said. “Are they going to be at the level of search and rescue? No. But I suspect we’ll get them some training with those guys.”
To be able to effectively monitor all the city’s parks and trail systems, the officers will be sporting some less-than-usual police equipment such as mountain bikes, 4x4s and even snowshoes for the winter months.
Another possible resource for the officers will be drones. While there are many legal restrictions in place on how law enforcement can use drones because of privacy concerns, O’Neal said he expects they will play a big role in search and rescue operations.
“The drones can fly up to the area and see where a person is. The drones will be outfitted with a voice command feature where we can talk through a speaker and tell the person that help is coming or give them directions,” he said.