OGDEN — Helping keep an eye on protests in Salt Lake City, it almost seemed to Lt. Cortney Ryan of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office as if he were back in Ogden.
“I know there were a lot of familiar faces from up in Weber County,” he said.
But no, the many Weber County colleagues he encountered were, like him, in the capital city to help the Salt Lake City Police Department contend with the many street demonstrations that have flared up in response to the death of George Floyd. The protesting has been intense at times, taxing SLPD resources, and outside officers have been essential in providing the manpower needed to contend with the situation.
“We have tons of departments and agencies. They’ve been such a great help to us,” said SLPD Detective Michael Ruff, spokesperson for the department.
Hundreds of Salt Lake officers have been contending with the daily protests, he estimates, along with as many as “a couple hundred” more from agencies around the state depending on the day’s particular circumstances.
Indeed, Northern Utah has stepped up, with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office, the Ogden Police Department, the Roy Police Department and the Davis County Sheriff’s Office — among many others — lending officers to help out. Ryan said the Riverdale, South Ogden and North Ogden police departments have also provided help, in addition to the Utah Highway Patrol, the Utah National Guard and other agencies from around the state.
The Roy Police Department sent 22 officers to help on May 30, the first and most intense day of protesting.
“Some of that got into being a riot,” said Roy Mayor Bob Dandoy. “The fact of the matter is, our force was right in the middle of that.”
Likewise, the Davis County Sheriff’s Office sent 23 officers to help on May 30, a Saturday, frequently facing hostile conditions.
Floyd, who was African-American, died at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer and many of the demonstrators around the country have sounded messages against racial injustice and police brutality.
“With Saturday, there was a lot of spitting and calling of names,” mainly directed at officers trying to corral the demonstrations, said Liz Sollis, the Davis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson. “There were a lot of rocks thrown.”
What’s more, many sheriff’s office cars, parked in protest areas to help control movement of demonstrators, sustained dents from flying debris, Sollis said. At least one Salt Lake City Police Department vehicle was overturned and torched in the violence.
Though responding officers at the “scrimmage line” of the protests can face hostility, Ryan said they are trained not to internalize it. Some protestors are “upset with law enforcement in general. It’s not a personal thing, so don’t allow that to become personal with the officer,” he said.
At any rate, tensions have seemed to ease since that first day of demonstrations, and Ryan sees the law enforcement presence as safeguarding the protestors’ right to speak out, preventing the minority of bad actors from instigating destruction. The Weber County Sheriff’s Office contingent, which has included Sheriff Ryan Arbon, totaled 45 on Thursday, 61 on Wednesday and 30 on May 30.
“We understand there’s a constitutional right for protestors,” Ryan said. “We want to protect (demonstrators) from those very few people who want to turn it into a violent demonstration.”
Going forward, whether Weber County law enforcement agencies are called to Salt Lake City to help will depend on the evolving situation there. But Ryan said most officers in the county will probably stick close to home over the weekend to take part in funeral ceremonies set for Saturday for Nate Lyday, the Ogden police officer shot and killed on May 28 while responding to a domestic violence call.