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SPANISH FORK — A small but hearty group of Utahns from across the Wasatch Front came together Saturday to stand in support of public servants whom they believe don't often get the credit they deserve for the tough job they do.
Prompted in response to the killing of New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the Utah 1078 Foundation held a candlelight vigil at the Spanish Fork Police Department on the same day that Ramos was laid to rest in Queens, N.Y., and a Flagstaff officer was shot and killed in Arizona.
The 1078 Foundation was created after Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride and deputy Greg Sherwood were both shot in January. Wride was killed while Sherwood survived.
10-78 is the police code for officer assistance. The organization raises funds for officers who are injured in the line of duty and their families.
Foundation organizer Megan Boulton said recent events in which police officers have been shot show that there is “so much negativity” surrounding law enforcement today that something needs to be done to show officers that not everyone is against them.
“Regardless of the actions they have to take at work, we are still here to support them and we are behind them,” she said. “They are having to defend themselves … and people are using it and opening the door to criticism.”
Boulton said too much of the focus of protests and demonstrations has been on incidents that are disparaging to police, while little attention has been paid to the good work they do everyday.
“There is just not enough positive reinforcement to our law enforcement when they have to do their job,” she said.
Several peace officers joined the vigil to champion the cause as well, including retired deputy Bob Yeaman and Davis County Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Yeaman. They lamented that no one has stood in support of police in light of recent events and they believe it is about time that someone did.
“Law enforcement lives matter also,” Bob Yeaman said.
In response to the animosity that seems to have grown between police and the citizenry nationwide, he said an effort has to be made to restore trust in police departments again.
“The only way we can do that is talk and communicate with the local citizens,” he said. “Let them know that you are there to enforce the laws, but they also need to know that we are there to protect them, also.”
Dan Yeaman said more departments are implementing “citizen oriented” police training to help educated people about the role of law enforcement “and what we’re out there to do.”
Increased dialogue and improved efforts at community policing are the best chance to create better understanding between citizens and officer, they said.
Rachel Cullen of Saratoga Springs said she is saddened by the “negative vibe” surrounding police officers today, and she wanted to let law enforcement know that “not everyone does hate them and think that they are up to no good.”
“(People) need to remember that if you’re in trouble, the first thing you do is call the police because you need help,” she said. “If we aren’t supportive and there is hatred … who would want to go to work (as a police officer)?”
She noted that too few people realize that officers are just average people trying to do their jobs and get home to their families at the end of each day.
“That gets lost,” she added. “There needs to be more love and faith in our emergency services.”
Her husband, Patrick Cullen, echoed that sentiment and added that more people should try to put themselves in the position of the police and maybe their attitudes would soften a little.
“Keep an open mind and look at yourself and ask, 'Could you really do the job that they are out there doing?'" he said.