Ragland, who received a master's degree in fine arts from the University of Utah in 2002, said he is privileged to be the lone Utah representative among the selected artists.
"I wanted to come up with an idea that's powerful and engaging," said Ragland, 55. "What I think of firemen, police and first responders is they are courageous, and put the public first and don't think about what happens to them. They are there to protect you."
The four pieces cost $865,000 and are funded by a voter-approved $125 million public-safety bond, 1 percent of which was designated for art. Ragland's piece cost $140,000, while a piece by Buster Simpson, of Seattle, cost $350,000.
Simpson's sculpture is a towering, 35-foot composite of the silhouetted profiles of everyone who works in the Public Safety Building.
The other projects are by Alexander Tylevich, of St. Paul, Minn., and Po Shu Wang and Louise Bertelsen, of Berkeley, Calif.
Tylevich created three transparent rings suspended in midair and will refract light entering the building's atrium into different colors.
The Berkeley duo created an interactive water feature that produces waves when touched.
Roni Thomas, public art manager for Salt Lake City, said she and the city's design board conducted a national search to get the best art possible.
"We have great artists in Utah, but sometimes they might not have as much experience as someone else," Thomas said. "There are some pretty amazing pieces. It's great that we have the caliber of artists represented."
Along with the four main pieces, up to $50,000 will be spent on paintings for the building's public areas. All of the paintings will be by local artists.