SALT LAKE CITY — In the days following the death of soccer referee Ricardo Portillo, who was punched in the face by a 17-year-old player during an April 27 game, there have been many questions asked.
One of the most frequent questions I have been asked is about security. Are there any kind of security measures taken to try and protect the innocent at youth sporting events? Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department says yes.
"We have football conferences, soccer leagues and other events that will hire our off-duty officers to provide work and security at these games," Hoyal said.
Officers aren't at events just to help if tempers flare or to de-escalate a situation, Hoyal said. Oftentimes officers are there to help out in other instances.
"For example, if somebody gets hurt, they are there to render first aid," Hoyal said. "(Sometimes) people will lose property and we can investigate while they are there."
The off-duty officers, of course, are not required to attend these youth sporting events, but are available when they are asked.
"It's all based upon the league individually if they feel or see a need for our officers to be there," Hoyal said. "Most of the time when our officers are there, the things they get involved in are the medical-type calls when someone gets hurt."
But are we doing all we can to keep our youth sporting events safe? Hoyal said safety and security are taking leaps and bounds and progressing, and several of these leagues are hiring officers.
"We are improving and taking steps daily," Hoyal said.