SALT LAKE CITY — Many law enforcement officers in Utah worked with heavy hearts Friday.
"It's shocking," said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nathan Croft, as I rode along with him on I-15 in Salt Lake County.
He couldn't help but think about his own kids, and his own career, when he heard about the death of Sgt. Cory Wride, and the injuries to Sgt. Greg Sherwood.
"It's something we all identify with," he said.
Law enforcement officers in all of our communities can relate to the deadly risks that come with the job. State Troopers may approach a dozen cars a day on the side of the road — the exact situation that Sgt. Wride rolled up on yesterday. It's one of the greatest risks they take: not knowing what awaits on the other side of the window.
"I know there's a lot of frustration that something like that could happen, that people are just willing to do that to someone is who is out to help and serve the public," Croft said.
Croft is approaching 15 years with the UHP. He supervises a crew of four troopers.
"I've always thought of this job as dangerous," he said. "We all worry about the worst-case scenarios."
Croft said when he stopped to check on a car with its emergency lights blinking, he was polite and and professional, but:
"In the back of our heads, we have to think, 'What if they pull a gun on us, or what if they physically assaulted us?' "
That motorist was merely out of gas, and Croft was happy to control traffic while incident management got her back on the road. He said the vast majority of trooper stops are about service and engaging the public about safe driving.
His biggest fear?
"Basically becoming complacent," he said. "I always try to keep my edge."
Regular training on those types of roadside scenarios helps them keep that edge. They participate in 40 hours of in-service training every year.
Croft said he thought armored cars and riding with partners would improve safety. He said he'd like to ride in a bullet-proof cruiser, but fears that's too expensive. A Centerville company that does that kind of work said it would cost $18,000 to bulletproof the windshield, both front doors and the windows. The cost goes up from there, depending on the armor.
As far as working with a partner, Croft rather focus on tactics and keeping that edge.
But Thursday's fatal events did not make him question his own commitment.
"I love my job. I love what I do," he said. "I hope to be doing it for a long time."