OGDEN — The Wednesday night shootout that injured five officers and took the life of Agent Jared Francom brings to light a startling example of the dangers narcotics officers face.
"It takes a special kind of guy, in the first place, to be a police officer," said Kelly Call, a retired narcotics officer. "But it takes a very special, dedicated individual to become a narcotics officer."
There is a problem in the state of Utah. We are not 10-foot tall and bulletproof. It happens. It happened here.
–Kelly Call, retired narcotics officer
Call led Weber and Morgan counties' very first Narcotics Strike Force, and wrote up the grant that got it started. The organization enables law enforcement across both counties to pool their resources and cross city lines to fight the drug problem together.
Call says Wednesday's tragic shooting forced people to take a closer look at the important work these officers take on. "If people in the state of Utah had any idea of what went on with street level crimes, and what the police go through on a day to day basis, they wouldn't believe it," he said.
Before the Narcotics Strike Force came into play, each city and county agency was on its own. "It's a budget drainer because you don't have the resources," said South Ogden Police Chief Val Shupe. "Most departments — if they had to do it on their own — would have to draw, most likely, upon inexperienced officers."
Shupe says the strike force is especially valuable to smaller jurisdictions like his own because "drugs are no respecter of boundaries."
Not only can cities and counties combine forces, but the program also makes them eligible for federal help from grants. Plus, Shupe says drugs taken off the street in one city make a direct impact on other nearby towns.
"All three of those jurisdictions are going to see a benefit from that, because (the drugs) are taken of the street," he said. "And therefore, the drugs are taken out of your area."
Both these men say the job is grueling, dangerous and necessary — and that Wednesday night's shootout stands as just one frightening example.
"There is a problem in the state of Utah," Call said. "We are not 10-foot tall and bulletproof. It happens. It happened here."