By Haley Sotelo
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY―Visitors to the Utah State Capitol can expect to encounter Utah Highway Patrol officers as they provide both politicians and citizens with safety, security, and smiles.
Events nationwide have put law enforcement personnel in a negative light during the past year—Utah has been no exception—but UHP officers at the Capitol are offering visitors a more positive perspective.
Mark Bricker is one of these officers. As he works, he can be seen opening doors for others, sharing a laugh with visitors, and directing them to their destination. Bricker and his fellow officers are very friendly; however, their duty remains at the forefront of their minds.
“We’re the physical security arm,” Lt. John Mitchell said, explaining that the role of UHP at the Capitol is to protect legislators, dignitaries, and visitors. There is a brotherhood that exists in the department and a bond that the officers form, said Mitchell. “This isn’t just a job. This is something we live. This becomes part of your DNA; what you do, and who you are, and what you work for.”
The Capitol is constantly open to the public all 365 days of the year, and there is someone on duty every hour of every day. Deep in the basement of the Capitol there is always someone manning the security cameras. With their access to over 200 feeds, the security personnel see everything and are able to respond and dispatch officers to any incident.
“Don’t climb on anything!” said Bricker laughing. Occasionally, people are surprised when they are caught hopping fences, jumping off ledges, and climbing on the lion statues, not realizing that their every move is being watched.
In certain situations, two of the police responders could be K-9 Officer Spencer Beardshall and Rocco, his four-legged Belgian Malinois companion. Rocco, born in Holland, has been trained to obey every command that Beardshall gives him as they assist in patrols and explosive protection both at the Capitol and other locations. Although there is always an important enforcement to the work of the Utah Highway Patrol, Beardshall said, “I’d much rather help someone than take them to jail.”
Aside from helping out the public, the UHP works very closely with administration throughout the Capitol. “It is a very valued relationship,” said Allyson Gamble, head of the Capitol Preservation Board. “We feel very protected. The UHP loves the building just as much as we do.”