Ogden Gang Unit's longtime commander retires

Saturday , July 26, 2014 - 8:53 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN -- As a teenager, Scott Conley had no intention of a life in law enforcement. At the time he was more interested in cruising around town in his ’78 Camaro. Of course, the fast sports car drew the attention of police and young Conley found himself getting pulled over more and more. Rather than be a rebellious youth, he became friends with the patrolmen and his interest in law enforcement was born. He soon began what would be a 36-year career in law enforcement.

Conley thanks the police back then for actually engaging with him rather than harassing and being hard on him. Since then Conley says he has worked to be the kind of officer who can be a mentor to youth and not the bad guy. 

Deciding at age 58 to retire from law enforcement, Conley’s career was not only long, but eclectic, dipping his toes in just about all branches of police work. However, the common thread throughout his many jobs was his desire to work with youth and steer them on the right path.

In recent years, the lieutenant took up the role of being the face of Ogden Police’s Metro Gang Unit.

"Everybody thinks Ogden has a major gang issue, but in reality it’s no different than any other city along the Wasatch Front.”

On the legislative side of things, Conley is credited with co-authoring and advocating the implementation of the Civil Gang Injunction against Ogden Trece. The injunction was ultimately thrown out in the courts after a lawsuit arose.

Conley says he doesn't see the role of the Gang Unit to be focused on arresting gang members, but to prevent youth from going down that path.

"You can’t arrest your way out of a gang issue,“ Conley said. ”You need to get to the root of the problem.“

As part of his effort to live up to that philosophy, Conley co-developed the CROSS (Community, Reentry, Opportunities, Social, Suppression) gang intervention program to reach at-risk youth. 

The program helps reintegrate juveniles in the court system back into their communities and keep them from reverting back into the gang lifestyle. The program is hands-on and focuses on working with a few individual youths at a time.

"I’ve talked with parents who say ’oh, my kid’s not in a gang,’” Conley said. “Then I’ll go down to their room and see bandanas, graffiti and all the other signs. They had no idea.” 

Ultimately it comes down to the parents raising their children right, he said. 

“If parents would be parents and not try to be friends, that’d solve a whole lot of problems,“ he said.

Something that has concerned Conley is how parents will frame police officers for children, painting them as the bad guy who should be avoided. Even threatening children when they are being unruly that they’ll have a cop come arrest them, casts police in a bad light, when they should be someone children can trust and come to in emergencies, he said.

”It’s not easy to convey to kids nowadays that you’re somebody they could trust and go to for help,“ he said.  

Earlier in his career he was a K-9 officer and even then he was able to start a dialogue with the community’s youth through his K-9 partner, Boss. 

Being able to reach out and start that dialogue is the first step in preventing kids from going down the wrong path, he said.

Conley prides himself on being able to think outside the box in his efforts to reach out to kids and the most apparent example is his credit as a producer of a hip-hop album aimed at sending a positive message to youth.

Conley remembers listening to a juvenile’s music one day and hearing that it was all about representing your gang and shooting at police.  

“Music is the bridge to everything. So I thought, what if we made a positive rap CD,” he said.

Working with a local hip-hop duo, Royce and Inglewood, Conley helped craft an album of rap-style songs with lyrics centered on things like getting an education and being a leader in the community.

For awhile, Ogden patrolmen carried a few CDs in their cars to give away to kids and start a dialogue.

Conley also organized a brief tour of schools for the rap group to perform and tell their story about struggling with drugs and gang violence. 

Other projects he’s been involved in included jump-starting the Oasis Community Garden, the after school Let’s Play Program and the Ogden City Mounted Horse Patrol Unit.

Young people have always been the focus of Conley’s work and he hopes that his successors can keep that same focus.

Ogden Police Chief Mike Ashment said he has worked with Conley for almost his entire career.

"You couldn’t ask for a better policeman,“ Ashment said. ”You’d be hard pressed to find someone as dedicated as him.“

Over the years, the thing that Conley has seen change the most is technology and how it has affected not only how police communicate, but everyone. 

"There’s that lack of face-to-face communication, you don’t see that anymore and I think bringing even a little of that back would go a long way,” he said.

Conley chose to retire as of this July to purse other opportunities outside of law enforcement. 

"An older, well respected officer told me that I’d know when it was time,“ he said. ”And, well, I just feel like it’s time.“

 Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or arivera@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.

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