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"The decisions you make today will reflect on us all tomorrow."
The words of Utah County sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride, written for a speech on ethics he gave less than a year before he was gunned down in Eagle Mountain, proved prescient as supporters of law enforcement gathered Wednesday in the Utah State Capitol to defend against what they called a rising tide of anti-police sentiment nationwide and locally.
"Today you are a cop. You stand for what is right. You're held to a higher standard. Can you live up to this standard? If not, it's time to take off the uniform and find another job," Nanette Wride read aloud from her husband's notes one day before the anniversary of his death. "Upon the conduct of each depends the fall of all. Go make us proud."
"He was so proud," Nanette Wride told the crowd of more than 200 officers, families and government officials at the event, titled Utah's Salute to Law & Order. "He was a warrior at heart and in his soul."
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes tearfully asked officers to stay proud even though, as he said he was recently told by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper, "The tension out there is palpable."
"Unless somehow you've violated your trust by abusing your power, you should never, ever feel ashamed to wear your badge," Reyes said.
"Not all people in law enforcement are good people and the many good people aren't perfect," he conceded. But, he said, "to defame and to judge and to target the entirety of the law enforcement community because of the actions of a few is bigotry of its own kind."
Iron County Commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff, who organized the event, said police critics should be grateful.
"If you don't like cops, the next time you need help call a looter, shooter … robber … or crackhead," Brinkerhoff said.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said the wave of national controversy over police use of force "doesn't seem like a discussion."
"What I see is a lot of finger-pointing and chest-thumping and bullying," Cox said.
To loud applause, he added: "We should be asking, 'What can we do to help you? How can we help you do your jobs better? How can we keep you safe?' "
While several of the public officials and families of fallen officers spoke to the risks taken by law enforcement officers, some pointed out the need for support through day-to-day sacrifices.
"Most of us do not realize the mental strength it takes to work as a police officer every day," said Kristie Beesley, wife of Trooper Aaron Beesley, who died in 2012 when he fell from a cliff after rescuing two hikers on Mount Olympus.
Desirae Payne, sister of Draper Sgt. Derek Johnson, said that before he was gunned down in 2013, her brother had found a way to stay motivated at work even though he said most of his efforts went toward the 10 percent of the population that was most likely to offend and re-offend.
"If I can make a small difference to help one of them change their life, then I've done my job," Payne recalled Johnson telling her.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams stressed that officers don't enjoy the working conditions that many other professionals take for granted.
"Each [officer] serves a cause greater than themselves. They accept the risks. They have very little control over their salaries, duty shifts, training, budgets. Yet they step forward to do their job," McAdams said. "Those of us not in [the law enforcement] family will never completely understand the long nights, the early mornings, the missed anniversaries and birthdays that mark their careers."