SYRACUSE — Syracuse Police Chief Garret Atkin’s first day on the job included a swearing-in ceremony and a walk-through at the high school to make sure there were no bombs.
Atkin began his job as the city’s new police chief on Dec. 21. He replaced Brian Wallace, who retired after serving 20 years as chief.
Atkin said he and other officers, including Wallace, went to Syracuse High School on Dec. 21, which was the last day of school before the winter break, to make sure it was safe for students following rumors that someone was going to bring a bomb to the school. Five students had been suspended on Dec. 20 after they claimed a PlayStation that one of them brought to school was a bomb.
“Kids can’t joke about stuff like that,” Atkin said. “It’s just not funny.”
Atkin worked several hours on Christmas Day, taking a turn at patrol so the duty officer could spend some time with his family.
He stopped to visit with some kids who were sledding and learned they were visiting from Nova Scotia.
Atkin, who grew up in Woods Cross, brings to his new job 15 years of experience with the Layton Police Department.
Atkin did not aspire to become a police officer in his younger years.
“I wanted to be an architect, but I got a scholarship to play football at Southern Utah (University), took some criminal justice courses and liked them,” Atkin said.
Atkin was a linebacker on the SUU football team and received his bachelor’s degree. He briefly thought about going to law school, but “I couldn’t see myself going to school for three more years,” he said.
He applied for a job as a police officer with Layton 15 years ago, got hired and went through police academy. Atkin started as a patrol officer, worked as community resource officer and served as a Taser and firearms instructor.
“I want to thank Layton city for all the training and experience they gave me,” Atkin said. “They are good people to work for.”
Atkin and his wife, Kristy, moved to Syracuse seven years ago. They are parents of three sons.
“It’s a good place to live,” Atkin said. “We have good neighbors. We love the Cub Scouts, the football and baseball programs.”
Atkin, who was a lieutenant at Layton, said he was ready for the next step in his career, but did not apply for every chief position that came open.
“I wanted to work in a community (where) I could see my family living,” he said.
Layton police department had 80 officers, while Syracuse has 19 officers, including the chief.
Working at a smaller department is fine with Atkin.
“I like to know the people I work with,” Atkin said.
Atkin said he knows the department will change, like the city will change. When he moved to Syracuse, the city’s population was around 9,000, had a number of farm fields, and Antelope Drive was basically a two-lane road. Now the city has about 24,000 residents, numerous businesses, including theaters, a high school and Antelope Drive is a four-lane road.
The city will continue to grow in the next few years, and Atkin is hoping the police department will be able to change enough to meet the community’s needs.
“I would love to get two officers on the road at all times,” Atkin said.
Currently there are times when the city only has one officer on duty, with backup coming from Davis County, Clinton and Clearfield.
Atkin said he does not plan to make any sweeping changes in the immediate future.
“I’m not coming in and saying, ‘This is how we did it in Layton,’ ” Atkin said. “If it is different, but still works here, it’s easier for me to change than to have them learn my ways.”
But Atkin said the strategic plan he submitted to the hiring committee is his road map for the future.
Some of those plans include a uniform policy, so “when you get pulled over by a Syracuse police officer, you know it’s a Syracuse police officer,” he said.
He also wants to recognize officers who volunteer their time in the community, such as serving as Little League or football coaches or in the Boy Scout program.