Human first, trooper second: Flying through the balance

Trooper Cody Ohlau stands in front of his patrol motorcycle with wife Sadie Ohlau on Pioneer Day 2022. Ohlau, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper in Salt Lake County, aspires to be a commercial pilot one day. (Photo courtesy of Cody Ohlau)

Keys. Wallet. License. Badge.

He twists the key and hears the engine come to life and makes sure everything is in place.

Whether it is a motorcycle and a police uniform or an airplane and jeans, 29-year-old California native Cody Ohlau is soaring.

Day-to-day life

Sunday to Wednesday, Ohlau is a Utah Highway Patrol trooper in Salt Lake County, stopping cars, catching people driving under the influence, cleaning up crashes and training new troopers.

But there is more to life than being a trooper.

All days of the week, Ohlau is a husband, pilot, crocheter and active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Ohlau’s friend and fellow trooper Kelley Jensen said Ohlau reminds her of Olaf from Frozen, and Ohlau said his nine, ten and eleven-year-old students at church call him Olaf too.

“He is serious, he loves everyone and he really truly wants the best for everyone. He’s just super funny and can make you laugh at the drop of a hat,” Jensen said. “I probably wouldn’t be able to do my job without his friendship.”

On duty

Being a trooper is a hard job and separating work from home can be difficult.

Trooper Ohlau shows curious kids his patrol motorcycle. Ohlau, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper in Salt Lake County, aspires to be a commercial pilot one day. (Photo courtesy of Cody Ohlau)

“I’m good at being at work, focusing on work, and it usually takes me a little bit to come home and decompress,” Ohlau said. “When we go on vacation, it always takes me a couple of days to not be a cop anymore. I just have to remember they’re my family and if I’m talking to them, I’m not interviewing them. I’m not interrogating them. I’m not trying to find out information about them.” 

Sadie Ohlau, Trooper Ohlau’s wife, said there is a hard balance of figuring out what elements of the job are OK to share with friends and family, because the details can be hard to swallow — like the description of a violent crash scene.

Jensen, who became friends with Ohlau during their UHP training, said the balance is difficult for every officer.

“(Police officers) are not just cut and dry and say it’s only about justice. That’s not who we are,” Jensen said. She explained that there is a challenge of finding the line where justice is given while kindness can still be shown.

Flying the balance is where Ohlau’s pilot training comes in.

Flying high

Ohlau is close to getting his private pilot’s license, which is something he has wanted since he was a teenager. The Ohlaus agreed that the pilot course has been great for Ohlau to have a goal and be active in something that makes him happy.

Cody Ohlau flies above the clouds in a private airplane. Ohlau, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper in Salt Lake County, aspires to be a commercial pilot one day. (Photo courtesy of Cody Ohlau)

“It started out as really needing a hobby, because his hobbies were riding motorcycles and shooting, very job-related things. He needed a hobby that doesn’t have anything to do with work, so he started flying again,” Sadie Ohlau said.

Taking flight has been the relief Cody Ohlau sought, giving a similar high to his other hobbies. 

While on flights, Ohlau can leave the daily stress on the ground.

“Nobody can bother me and call me. Nobody can tell me their opinion about anything. My parents can’t call me and complain about something, my sergeant can’t call me and ask why my timesheet isn’t done,” Ohlau said.

He started as a firefighter in his teenage years, just before serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he came home, he decided he wanted a change and chose to become a Highway Patrol trooper. Now, Ohlau aspires to become a commercial pilot.

“The plan is partly because this career is difficult for both of us, not just for him. The general public are often negative because of how they view his profession, and that’s just really hard on a person to go through that every day,” Sadie Ohlau said. “So we thought, well, you’re getting your private pilot’s license, let’s maybe just go for the commercial license so that you don’t have to do (police work) for the next 30 years.”

Finding the way

If he could give any advice to someone considering becoming an officer, Cody Ohlau would say to look for the good in people.

Jensen said that officers are hired because of who they are and where they come from and she believes Ohlau is a great example of that.

“I try to remember that everybody has a purpose in this life, and our job is to try to help people get back on track,” Ohlau said. “Whether it’s just slowing down so that they can make it home to their family or go to jail because they’re driving impaired and injured somebody.”

Ohlau believes that every person he comes across is a child of God, and no matter what they have done, they are loved by Jesus.

“We’re all here to learn. We’re all here to grow,” Ohlau said.

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