PEOPLE OF LA SAL
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Todd has lived in La Sal for one and a half years.
Although he hasn’t lived in La Sal for very long he has definitely made his presence known. That’s a good thing. He is the cop-in-residence. He is a deputy for the San Juan County Sheriff. In fact, it is that job that brought him to La Sal in the first place. Before then he worked as a police officer for the city of St. George, Utah, for five and a half years, after receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Utah Valley University.
Todd didn’t start out immediately as a cop, though. He first started as a prison guard at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. But after guarding prisoners for six months he decided he wanted to return to his initial career choice of ranch work. He moved to Florida with his brand new bride to work on a ranch for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He loved it. But he felt that it didn’t fully sustain his responsibility to provide for his family. So after a year in Florida they moved back to Utah and Todd returned to the prison as a guard, for over five more years.
He describes work at the prison as “hours of sheer boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.” Intense moments are to be expected when dealing with inmates. They are rough, vulgar, mean, aggressive and are perpetually trying to intimidate those around them, especially the guards. Todd adds that someone who spends enough time in prison around these types of people will eventually lose fear and inhibitions that the normal person would not. It becomes a necessity. He arose to the occasion and was able to do his job, and do it well.
He was in one situation where an inmate came up behind him with a pool cue raised in the air to hit Todd over the head with it. Todd noticed out of the corner of his eye the pool cue coming down on him very quickly. With accelerated reflexes he turned, swinging his fist toward the pool cue with such force that the cue busted right in half in mid-air. At the same time, he was going in for a knock-down punch on the guy when he realized that the force he had from his adrenaline would really mess the guy up, so he stopped his fist inches from the inmate’s face. Fear fell over the inmate, whom was now the vulnerable one. The others in the room fell silent in astonishment at the unexpected turn of events and the super-human reflexes from Todd. Todd himself was even a little surprised because from where he was standing there is no way he should have been able to see it coming, and the rapid motion which he used was quicker than what he felt should have been humanly possible. He sincerely believes there was divine intervention there to help protect him. The inmate realized he was made to look foolish and weak in front of his cohorts so, trying to save face, he started throwing insults at Todd. Todd was able to outwit the guy with some insults of his own that quickly shut him up. Word soon spread around the prison about this incident and most of the inmates then had a newfound respect for Todd.
Todd wasn’t the kind of guard who is forceful and arrogant toward the prisoners. Instead, he genuinely cared about helping them. He was kind to them. He was careful with what he said around them and he didn’t use the same profane language that surrounded him. He was different. Some days were harder than others, but he didn’t let their foul behavior influence his moral compass. That is part of why everyone was so surprised when he used so much brute force. Todd was able to get the upper hand and had every right to beat the guy that came at him with a pool cue, but he didn’t. He showed the inmates, and the other guards, that he has what it takes to keep the prisoners in line, and he will use it if the situation necessitates, but that he would rather choose to be kind instead. They respected that.
That is just the kind of person Todd is. He carries those same values into every aspect of his life, including life as a police man. When he is out patrolling the streets, or looking for drug deals, or finding people with warrants, or stopping a potentially bad situation like a family fight or a woman being taken advantage of, he is known for his long conversations he has with the offenders. During these conversations he is trying to show compassion and love for these people but at the same time helping them understand that they must take responsibility for their actions, and that it is never too late to change their ways. In a book that he wrote called From The Bottom Up: A Leadership Perspective, Todd writes that, “Life is all about personal development and helping others do the same.” He truly wants to help others. It is why he became a police officer.
He says that being ‘on the street’ is a lot less intense than being in prison, but being on the street is a lot more dangerous. That is why he physically prepares himself for the job as much as he can; staying fit and healthy, practicing shooting his gun, and anything else that might ensure his ability to protect himself and others. He has won several fitness awards with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department and the St. George Police Department. But being physically fit isn’t all it takes. He says he also needs to be prepared spiritually. It helps him find the positive in every situation, which is admirable because in his line of work he is constantly being inundated with negativity. He sees people doing the worst things that they are capable of. It is easy to let all the negativity get you down. From his book he states, “Police officers are presented with more temptation than the average citizen in every way imaginable. They spend a majority of time with criminals and others who want to influence them. Depressing experiences become the norm in their lives. Pessimism and indifference creep in day-by-day…. Negativity can only be fought by optimism.”
He is optimistic because he believes that everyone has the ability to change. He genuinely cares about the community and the people. He considers himself the community caretaker and he takes his job seriously. He tries to influence bad into good. When he walks into a situation where people are upset or angry and he is able to calm them down and turn the situation into something positive he feels very rewarded. He enjoys this aspect of his job the most. For example, he pulled over a motorcyclist who turned out to be a younger gentleman who did not have his motorcycle endorsement for his driver’s license, nor did he have the motorcycle registered. Initially, the boy was upset at getting caught because he didn’t think he had to follow the rules. Instead of being annoyed at the boy’s attitude, giving him a ticket, and impounding the bike, Todd sat down with him on the curb and had a heart-to-heart with him about following the rules, no matter what or where they are. He explained why it is important to jump through hoops in order to show that you are an honest person. That registering his bike and getting the proper endorsements is more than just succumbing to government regulations and fees, it reveals one’s integrity. The boy said that he never thought of it like that before, and took the council to heart. It really was an Ah Ha moment for the boy and a gratifying moment for Todd.
Not every moment is peaches and cream though. And Todd admits that it is hard not being able to talk to his spouse about some things that happen on the job, but remarks that that is what fellow officers are for. They kick doors down together, they put kids in body bags together, they see the worst of it together. Because those kinds of moments are shared together a strong bond is formed between officers and a dependable trust is built.
Unfortunately, there are some people in the workplace who break that trust, for one reason or another. Todd has observed over the years, throughout his different jobs, how sometimes administration and co-workers will treat each other poorly, dishonestly, and manipulatively, and how that behavior affects the entire workforce, both directly and indirectly. He got so ticked off one day about it that he started putting his thoughts and observation into writing. He ended up with a book called From The Bottom Up: A Leadership Perspective. It is philosophical book about taking a closer look at yourself in the workplace and what it takes to be happy there, no matter where there is. And that finding true happiness will inadvertently lead you to better things. It is a good read with plenty of insight on getting back to the basics. It was published just weeks ago and is available at Amazon.com. Click here for more information, to purchase it, or to borrow it for free from your Kindle with an Amazon Prime account.
Todd is thinking about writing another book about the criminal justice system and how we the people need to take control of how we think that system should operate, instead of letting the bureaucratics continue taking it in the direction it is going.
Todd is a great asset to La Sal and San Juan County. One can feel safer knowing that there is an honest and dedicated officer patrolling our streets.