From Mexico to Utah, a man gave his family freedom

A life buried to create another


What is a human being with no true place to call home? And what would it feel like to be abandoned by your own country and risk your life to create a better life for yourself.

“My job is not to be popular, It’s to do what’s right,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief, Chris Burbank. Utah, being one of the highest cities that hold refugees makes it a vulnerable situation for discrimination and racial profiling because they are not from this country, or state for that matter. “People are unaware of the rights they have in this country,” said Burbank.

Efron is a 45-year-old custodian at a Salt Lake County recreation center. He has seen and experienced many things in his life before crossing the border into a country that offered him a much healthier lifestyle. “Thirty years ago I was in Mexico where I was born, and had many horrible things happen to me and my family,” said Efron, whose name is being withheld to protect his identity. He said, at one point he had to sell cocaine to support his family after his mother was killed because of the troubles his father brought to the family. Wanting a much better life, Efron ran away from his home, trying desperately to cross the border and transform his life.

In January 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there were nearly 11 million unauthorized residents living in the 50 states, which were approximately the same as 2009, but less than 11.8 million in 2007.

“The first time I tried to cross over to the U.S. I was 15, but I didn’t make it very far and bad things happened to me,” Efron said. In 2010 there were 0.7 million unauthorized citizens in the U.S. that were 18 and younger, which is where Efron would have been if he made it the first time. Instead many years later, when he finally made it to the U.S. he joined the highest amount of Immigrants from the DHS source of 2.3 million men of the age’s 25-34-years old.

“Discrimination and racial profiling is not the way to solve this problem,” Burbank said. “The number one goal is to protect the constitutional right of every individual.”  Burbank was very into protecting the individual rights of people as he talked to a journalism class at the University of Utah.

Efron, although has admitted to doing a lot of illegal things just to gain possession of a green card and become a citizen of the United States, would not trade any of the hardship he went through to get to this point of time in his life. “Now that I have made it to a better place, I do not look back at all,” said Efron. Happy to have finally buried his past and created a better one for his children, Efron is happy where his hard work and faith has landed him. “I gave my children freedom that I didn’t have, I had to force myself out of fear to allow them to have a life they can enjoy and I am happy with that,” Efron said.


Millions spent in Utah state prison for illegal immigrants.

Utah illegal immigration issue in the works                                                                                                                                   by MCKENZIE DEAN

With the issue of illegal immigration vastly growing, Utah is taking action to make a better situation out of a sticky one for every person that resides in the Beehive State.

As of most recent, Bloomberg Business Week, reported in its Feb. 23 issue, the state of Utah spends eight million dollars a year to keep nearly 300 illegal immigrants in prison. In addition, the state spends $55 million on undocumented children’s education.

Like Utah, the rest of America continues to pay costs associated with illegal immigration, as courts and the federal government continue to wrestle with the issue.

In 1994, Congress’ established the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). With good intentions, the government established a trilateral trade bloc among the United States, Canada and Mexico. Since its creation, some critics argue, NAFTA has backfired and developed into a large contributor towards illegal immigration.

“Ninety percent of trade that happened through the agreement were drugs. In addition, it lowered the amount of patrolling between the borders, allowing many undocumented people to come to the U.S,” said Scott Haskell, West Jordan Utah Police force. “It is an agreement that backfired on us and has been a large contributor towards the mass amount of illegal immigrants living in America currently.”

That in mind, the government allowed more than intended to effect America and the issue of illegal immigration to vastly grow.

Here within the state of Utah, it has been an issue that has caught national attention. A Utah law in which police were required to verify immigration status of victims of a felony, is actually violating the United States Constitution.

“Racial Profiling is committed too much and we need to allow it not to happen,” said Salt Lake City Chief Chris Burbank. “A different tone needs to be set.”

Simply asking undocumented immigrants for personal information interferes with how the government pursues its priorities in federal law enforcement.

With the knowledge that there is no way to completely stop illegal immigration, there are numerous ways the judicial system can improve the situation, some say.

“Working to become legal is the biggest and best step that immigrants can do. The ability to earn a work visa will also prevent enforcement issues from continuing as much as they do,” said Rick Marshall, Nye County, Nev., Assistant Sheriff.

Nye County, which is located in rural Nevada, has taken positive steps toward addressing illegal immigration.

A woman in the county had entered the United States illegally.  While she was growing up, her parents worked to gain legal status. She had earned her work visa, become a U.S citizen and later graduated from the Nye County Police Academy to join the Nye County Sheriff’s police force with Marshall.

Situations like these are what need to occur more often. People are not aware of their right and things to do in order to gain citizenship, noted Marshall.

“There is definitely a need for more understanding towards every citizen here,” Burbank said. “It would be a failure of our system if we allow a person to become victimized without their own understanding of what is to be justifiably right.”

Salt Lake City police chief, Utah representatives combat new immigration laws


What would you say if you saw the police carting off your neighbor? His only crime is that he hasn’t waded through the years of paperwork and processing in order to obtain legal citizenship in the U.S. What about a friend who gets pulled over and asked for immigration papers or proof of citizenship solely because of her skin color? Would you step up and say something then? Or by then would it already be too late?

These are the questions Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank is asking, as he fires yet another salvo in the ever increasing debate over illegal immigration in the state of Utah.

Burbank, whose infamously lenient take on illegal immigration has earned him the nickname “Sanctuary Burbank,” from opponents, said that the current proposed “solutions” for illegal immigration in Utah represent a serious threat to the civil liberties of U.S. citizens and could actually increase the crime rate of Utah should they be enacted.

“These are ridiculous laws,” Burbank said of proposed immigration laws similar to those passed in Arizona.

Arizona’s SB 1070 require police officers to actively check immigration status during legal stops, and require all aliens, legal or otherwise, to carry proper documentation of their citizenship at all times. Failure to do so could result in a misdemeanor charge.

“Any time we as a society can say one segment of our population—because of who they are, what they look like, the language they speak—is more engaged in criminal behavior [as a result]. Well that’s as racist and biased as anything I’ve ever heard,” Burbank said.

Burbank said that he believes by creating laws that target illegal immigrants, Utah will create significant problems for the community on two levels—crime increase, and the all too slippery slope of racial profiling.

“You actually increase crime when you enforce these kinds of laws,” Burbank said.

He cited the formation of the Italian Mafia as an example of racially specific profiling leading to increased crime, saying that due to the shunning of the Italian people on the East Coast, they began to look to each other for support and eventually turned to crime as an alternative to pursuing legal jobs outside of their own community.

One of Burbank’s main concerns with the proposed laws, is that the threatened deportation of illegal immigrants increases the likelihood those immigrants won’t feel comfortable reporting crimes to the police for fear of calling deportation down on themselves.

“When we have a segment of society that turns their back or says ‘We’re not going to interact with the police,’” Burbank said. “Well, the criminal element thrives.”

The other great threat Burbank believes these laws represent is that of selective racial profiling.

“We are a very effective form of oppression,” Burbank said of the dangers associated with racial profiling. “Those things [profiling] are wrong and it’s my job to prevent that from happening in my profession. I will not allow my officers to be involved in that behavior.”

Burbank isn’t the only one interested in seeing Utah’s illegal immigration status solved through non-aggressive legislation. State Rep. Rebecca Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, also stated concerns similar to Burbank’s regarding an increase in crime, should these laws be enacted.

“I think that [Burbank’s view] is probably true,” Edwards said. “I’ve talked to people in law enforcement who believe that it [immigration laws] would drive people who might report crime underground.”

Not only did Edwards express concerns regarding a possible increase in crime, but also the potentially disastrous effect such laws could have on Utah’s economy, citing the numerous illegal immigrants who help maintain Utah’s farmland.

“They [immigration laws] in the end are not realistic because of the devastation to the economy and tearing families apart,” Edwards said. “If people are going to be here anyway, let’s help them to be responsible.”

Of course not everyone is satisfied with Utah’s current policies on illegal immigration such as HB116, which passed last year, allowing illegal immigrants who fulfill certain requirements to obtain jobs and in-state tuition at Utah’s public colleges and universities.

State Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, is particularly adamant about the problems that illegal immigration is causing for those waiting to immigrate to the U.S. legally.

“By us tolerating illegal immigration, we are hurting those who are waiting up to 20 years for legal immigration,” Herrod said. “Where is the compassion for those who are waiting in line? Nobody is talking about those individuals.”

Herrod, who has a number of legal immigrants in his family, including his wife, a native of Russia, supports the proposed laws that would crack down on illegal immigration. He believes that by acting as what he calls a “sanctuary state,” Utah is hurting legal immigrants as much as, if not more than, the illegals who come into the state.

“As a sanctuary state, what we’re saying is that we love illegal immigrants more than we do legal immigrants,” Herrod said. “That’s, to me, simply warped.”

With the gulf of opinion regarding illegal immigration widening with each new approach, there is at least one thing both sides of the issue agree on—obtaining legal citizenship should be easier.

“We ought to be about making the process of legal immigration easier,” Rep. Edwards said. “Right now it’s onerous, expensive, and time-consuming.”

In the end, it’s hard to say which side of the argument is correct, or if a proper solution can ever truly be enacted. According to Edwards, the problem can merely be managed and will ultimately be solved only if the government gets involved at a federal level.

“States are attempting to solve this in their own ways, but in the end it’s a federal problem,” Edwards said. “We can deal with people once they’re here in our state, but the issue of immigration is a federal one.”

HB 497: The long arm of the law overstretched


The Salt Lake City Police Chief spoke to a group of students at the University of Utah about topics ranging from gangs to his stance on HB 497, a harsh anti-immigration bill he views as ripe for encouraging the practice of racial profiling.

Chris Burbank, 46, has been a vocal opponent of Utah’s house bill since the Legislature passed it in 2011. On the same day that he spoke at the U, The Salt Lake Tribune published an op-ed piece written by Burbank titled, “‘Papers-please’ law would harm all Utahns.

“I don’t believe officers should be cross-deputized [as immigration agents],” Burbank said. “It’s not our role.”

HB497 hasn’t yet gone into effect because its constitutionality has been challenged by the United States. The measure essentially allows local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of any individual they deem to be “reasonably suspicious.”

The broad language in the bill has been the source of concerns from Burbank and the Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

A pamphlet distributed by the ACLU of Utah called FAQ 497 reads:

How does HB 497 cause racial profiling?

The “reasonable suspicion” language of the law will allow and invite law officers to second-guess a person’s immigration status based on stereotypes, i.e., race, ethnicity, or accent. Demanding “papers” based on a person’s appearance is not “reasonable” and is not constitutional.

The law forces officers to push bias into their work, Burbank said.

During his presentation at the U, Burbank used students from the audience to illustrate how laws like HB 497 could impact minorities.

Burbank’s lined up two Caucasians, an African-American, an Asian-American and a Mexican-American. He then asked the rest of the students who among the lineup were the most likely to be questioned about their nationality.

Before the audience could speak up, Burbank grabbed the Mexican-American and Asian-American students and asked them to prove they are citizens of the United States.

“I won’t allow my officers to be engaged in those kinds of behaviors. I don’t care what the laws are that they’re trying to put into place,” Burbank said.

His stance on immigration enforcement has ruffled more than a few feathers among lawmakers. Some have even gone so far as nicknaming Salt Lake City, “Sanctuary Burbank.”

“They’re wrong and inject bias into what we do. And so that’s why I stood up and said, ‘hey, not going to do it,’” Burbank said. “And I will continue to fight that fight.”

Peter Vu, a second generation Vietnamese-American born and raised in Orem, said that if such stringent immigration laws were to take effect in his home state, he worries his parents would be targeted by police officers.

“I mean, they’re naturalized citizens and everything. I don’t think they should have to go around carrying papers to prove that,” Vu said.

Vu, who worked at a grocery store in Salt Lake City that catered to the Asian community, said he thinks there are better ways to curb illegal immigration than what’s been proposed in HB 497.

At a bakery in Draper, Vu discussed the Utah Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act with his co-worker, Joe Fleming. Fleming is a transplant from Arizona, a state that passed the equally controversial SB 1070 in 2010. Utah, in fact, modeled its legislation after the Arizona statute.

Fleming’s father is Caucasian and his mother is of Mexican descent. While he worries about his mother being racially profiled by police in Arizona, Fleming also sees the need to bolster immigration enforcement.

“I understand where they’re coming from but what’s out there now probably isn’t the right way,” Fleming said.

In southern Arizona, where Fleming grew up on a large plot of land, he and his family had to deal with migrants using their property as a pit stop.

“We would always find trash and stuff at the spots where they camped,” Fleming said. “My sister was afraid to go out to the barn by herself at night.”

At the end of their conversation, both Fleming and Vu agreed that something has to be done to shore up the borders, but allowing police officers to ask people for proof of citizenship when there’s a “reasonable suspicion” is not the answer.

They both echoed Burbank’s sentiment.

“These are ridiculous laws and this is exactly what it is,” Burbank said.

Occupy Salt Lake movement continues after a peaceful eviction

by Tricia Oliphant

Isaac Hoppe, who first became homeless about eight years ago, was on her last limb. She felt she had done everything possible to find work but did not see any results. She was ready to quit.

Last October, Hoppe saw a flier on a light post that gave her new hope. This flier advertised participation in the local Occupy Salt Lake movement that would commence the following day.

“I was pretty close to the end. On October 5, had I not read the declaration on a light pole, I think I would have given up on life completely,” Hoppe said.

Hoppe is one of several protesters who joined the Occupy Salt Lake movement in harmony with the Occupy Wall Street movement on Oct. 6, 2011. Salt Lake City has become one of hundreds of cities worldwide where demonstrators have congregated and camped in an effort to make their voices heard. Among other motives, the demonstrators feel 99 percent of the population is not fairly represented by the government; instead, only the voice of the wealthy 1 percent of the population is heard. This cause compelled people like Hoppe to join the Occupy movement.

“It’s not about blame; it’s understanding that we have all had a hand in getting the world where it is,” Hoppe said.

For more than a month, Salt Lake City protesters gathered in Pioneer Park downtown, living out of tents and sharing donated food.

The protest was challenged on Nov. 11, 2011 when participant Michael Manhard died in his tent.  Consequently, Salt Lake police officers evicted all Occupy protesters from Pioneer Park the next day.

Memories of Manhard’s death, the subsequent eviction, and how police handled both continue to upset Occupy participants.

Soon after the discovery of Manhard’s body, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank held a press conference where he announced that all demonstrators must evacuate the park within 36 hours due to Manhard’s death and sanitation issues.

“We felt it would have been better to have a private meeting [with Chief Burbank],” Hoppe said. “I think it was a breach of trust that he made a public event of the death of one of our participants.”

Burbank gave the protesters too little time to evacuate and remove their belongings and, as a result, many lost their belongings, said protester and cook Raphael Cordray.

Cordray said that two dump trucks and a front loader were used to remove all unclaimed belongings on the night of the evacuation. “It was pretty awful,” she said. “Some people weren’t prepared to leave.”

Although several participants were upset by the short eviction notice, they still offered Burbank and the Salt Lake City police some praise for the otherwise peaceful eviction.

“Burbank does a lot better than some folk,” Cordray said.

Upon evicting the group, the police did not dress in riot gear and did not use pepper spray or other harmful force, as was the case in Oakland, Calif. Instead, they spoke with protesters and stated their options: leave peacefully, receive a citation, or stay and be arrested.

“Pepper spray is a use of force. There are other ways to deal with it,” Burbank said. “When you have a relationship, it works a lot better.”

Nineteen protesters were arrested, Cordray said.

Since the eviction from Pioneer Park in November, some of the participants relocated to where they currently camp at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

At present, only a dozen protesters camp full-time at the Gallivan Center.  This reduction of campers is due to smaller space, as well as a requirement to follow strict regulations.

The no drugs/violence/alcohol policy is now enforced more thoroughly than it was at Pioneer Park, Hoppe said. She has remained among the last camping protesters.

Tougher regulations at Gallivan mean participants can no longer cook food at their campsites or give food away.  These regulations are a result of the poor sanitation concerns at Pioneer Park.

Consequently, participants are in partnership with One World Café, where they eat their meals as well as volunteer their time.

Occupy Salt Lake will be allowed to stay at the Gallivan Center until May, Hoppe said. At that point, the city’s summer activities at the site will start, forcing another relocation for the demonstrators.

Several protesters who are not actively camping at the Gallivan Center meet with other protesters at the Salt Lake City Public Library at bi-weekly meetings to discuss current issues and to make plans.

“We want to work with the city,” Hoppe said.

Building bridges with the Mexican economy


Immigration has always been an issue in the United States, and continues to be. With immigration comes the issue of racial profiling, or singling an individual out for criminal suspicion based solely on skin color or ethnicity.  Racial profiling is illegal, but often this discriminatory pigeonholing sets the enforcement tone for those in the law enforcement profession.

“If you give the public an example of conduct to follow, get them to enlist and help stand up for what’s right instead of just accepting or allowing these wrong things to happen in their society, then we can make progress” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank. “We need to make sure that criminal behavior profiling is setting the tone, not racial profiling.”

According to Burbank, immigration is the biggest issue facing law enforcement in Salt Lake City, and it’s a matter in dire need of reform. Salt Lake City has one of the highest percentages of legal refugees in the country, he said, along with a steadily increasing number of illegal immigrants. As the number of immigrants rises, so does the need for change.

A Salt Lake City police officer who asked to not be named because of his current work as a narcotics agent, said, “In the past 20 years on duty, I have never seen an issue so impacting on so many levels as immigration is. In some way my job as an officer is impacted by immigration on a daily basis.”

The language barrier plays a big role in this change. “In order to narrow the divide between those who speak English and those who don’t, the community should provide more assistance and printed material in other languages” Burbank said. Some say it is unfair that we make exceptions or change our ways to accommodate non-English speakers, seeing it only fit that immigrants learn the language. The only way for them to progress as contributors to our society is by providing them the necessary measures to know how to follow the laws, to start off on the right foot, and to learn the language.

Burbank tells a story he said is far too common in Salt Lake City, about an immigrant who was misinformed by an acquaintance that he could purchase a license plate from him, slap it on the back of his car and drive legally. The inevitable happens: he is pulled over by the police, confused and still unsure of exactly what’s going on. Driving an unregistered vehicle with stolen plates, this is just the beginning of his troubles.

By preventing the undocumented from having the right information regarding laws and regulation, society is not preventing illegal immigration, Burbank said. “We are allowing them to drive improperly; we are allowing them to break the law unknowingly.” The Salt Lake City Police Department now publishes a handbook for people to read in more than 14 languages. This handbook provides immigrants with the information they need in order to become legal, to properly drive, to register vehicles and to observe neighborhood zoning rules.

You can read detailed information about these handbooks and more immigration assistance here.

Paul Ahlstrom, a long-time Salt Lake City resident, moved his family to Monterrey, Mexico almost three years ago to run a venture capital firm. He has a strong relationship with the state of Nuevo Leon, the state in which Monterrey is located. Watching first-hand the immigration issue from both sides, Ahlstrom became a driving force behind HB 466, which became law in 2011. In brief, the bill passed to start a state program corresponding with the federal guest worker program beginning a partnership between Utah and Mexico to start bringing guest workers here.

“The main factor in this bill is creating a proper way to study the legal, economic, cultural, and educational impact of illegal immigration on Utah. Providing a way to find the right answers in the right ways, not just creating a temporary solution,” Ahlstrom said. To read about Ahlstrom’s current progress in assisting Mexican entrepreneurs, you can visit the Alta Ventures website.

He advocates for providing the right aid and information for immigrants, not simply continuing to allow their illegal entrance to the U.S.  He believes the answer is to assist Mexican citizens in strengthening their own countries by building their economies. “We need to see the positive impact these immigrants have on our country, as well as the positive impact we can have on theirs. The best immigration policy for Utah is aiding in building the Mexican economy.”

America, land of the free: Salt Lake City police chief outlines a long history of racial profiling


“We are an affective arm of oppression because we stand ready,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank. He was speaking of the existing biases within legal systems. Prejudicial laws, he said, can act as weapons inflicting unfair oppression against one group of people. To Burbank, biased laws make it OK for police and politicians to “stand ready” and discriminate. This form of discrimination prompts racial profiling, Burbank said.

Burbank’s 21 years of experience on the Salt Lake City police force helped form his opinion on the subject of illegal immigration. He has witnessed an increase in illegal immigration and has noticed peoples’ inclination to strictly crackdown on undocumented workers. When speaking to a University of Utah class, Burbank explained how current biases in law enforcement trace back to historical occurrences.

According to Burbank, racial profiling helped construct a legal system with biased laws. Perhaps, these prejudice laws of generalization created the segregated workforce in the United States today.

Segregation in the United States has a long history. From slavery to Jim Crow laws, segregation created a trend of racial profiling against African immigrants. The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowed the legalization of slavery. Africans were imported and put to work, working hard labor jobs. When slavery ended with the Civil War, the South designed another form of segregation by enforcing Jim Crow laws

Jim Crow created a caste system in many southern states. For instance, African Americans were segregated from white people. They were forced to drink from their own drinking fountains, use different bathrooms, etc.Though free, African-Americans still worked hard labor jobs that no one else wanted and the segregation cycle continued. .

Today, racial profiling against African-Americans may be prominent. Burbank stressed that the majority of people conclude that African American people are criminals. “What’s the majority population in prison? African-American males between the ages of 18 and 35, they’re obviously criminal, aren’t they?” Burbank said, with a hint of sarcasm.

Along with the immigration of African slaves came other immigrants. New groups traveling to the United States came for a fresh start. History documents that they discovered a similar form of prejudice and favoritism experienced by African slaves. Biased opinions against Irish immigrants became prominent in the mid 1800s.  “Jobs were hard to find. Employers often advertised their unwillingness to take on the newcomers by hanging out ‘No Irish Need Apply’ signs. Irish women did find work as domestics, stereotyped as “Biddies,” short for Bridget,” published website,, said.

Finding work as an Irish man or woman proved itself a difficult task. “Back east all the Irish families are cops or firefighters. Nobody of any dignity wanted to be police officers…The Irish couldn’t get anything else. Segregated as we segregate Hispanics, they all became cops.” Burbank said. The idea of discrimination in the mid 1800s created an Irish family occupation trend.

Burbank also mentioned Italian immigrants struggles against biases. Some citizens viewed Italians as violent people; they also faced the problem of finding a job.  After poor treatment, Italians banned together and generated revenue in alternative ways.  During prohibition the American/ Italian Mafia produced profits through illegal sales of alcohol. Historical figures like Al Capone became prominent in U.S. history and media.

The Italian Mafia is present in pop culture. Reality Television shows like Growing Up Gotti and Mob Wives showcase media’s view of American-Italian decedents. Yet another form of biased opinion stands prominent in contemporary society.

After explaining biases in history, Burbank highlighted the struggles that a new group of immigrants are facing. He offered the idea that while prejudice opinions and laws rise up in culture on a national level, those preconceptions also surface on a local level. Illegal immigration prances to the hotspot of political attention, even in Salt Lake City legislation and business. As police chief, Burbank encounters such local issues.

People of Hispanic descent migrate to the United States everyday. However, many of them find difficulty in becoming legal. As illegal immigrants, the process of finding work may show to be a daunting task. In order to find work, some have been known to buy or forge documentation that looks legal.

The struggle of becoming legal punctures the well being of many businesses that hire employees with false documentation. In Salt Lake City, a local bed and breakfast faced turmoil when the entire housekeeping staff proved to be illegal. For protection, the names of the manager and hotel shall remain anonymous. “They all had documentation that looked totally legitimate. They came into my office and said we are all illegal… Because they told me that, I had to verify our entire staff,” the manager said.

The entire staff lost their jobs and livelihood. Most of them remained in Utah, but have not found work due to new policies of employee verification.

The hotel and its manager faced the task of replacing its view of hardworking employees who work for low wages. In cultural and business viewpoints, staff like this hotel’s housekeepers will work hard for near to nothing. Burbank finds oddness that these hardworking employees are often categorized as criminals in society’s mind.

This local hotel is just among many businesses that have suffered. Another prominent Salt Lake City hotel, The Grand America, faced the task of firing their housekeeping staff after an investigation.

Burbank closed his discussion with the U of U class and left students to ponder on new ideas and different outlooks. Among the new opinions Burbank offered that if new opinions and laws emerged, people like these housekeepers can become legal and break away from the criminal profiling they all face.

In political standards, many Utah politicians and law official hold the same existing biases in United States past and present history. Officer Burbank hopes to break away from racial profiling. Being in the minority, his viewpoints face scrutiny. “Salt Lake City, sanctuary Burbank, they actually have a wall with my name on the hill now because they are actually going to throw out all the police chiefs who don’t enforce immigration laws as they see fit. Not only do Hispanics have no judicial process, review or civil rights, neither do police chiefs,” Burbank said.


Got the chops to be a cop?


Becoming a police officer is a process, and those who are thinking about embarking on the journey should know what they are getting into.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank spent 15 years as an officer on the force before becoming the capital city’s police chief.

He won the 2011 award for “Utahn of the Year” from The Salt Lake Tribune, and has been trying to take positive steps with the police department since he became chief.

Burbank has said that, “Police officers jobs are to prevent crimes from occurring.” The question is how does one get to be in position to even become a cop?

It all starts with tests and training.

The National Police Officer Selection Test (NPOST) is the first test that prospective police officers must take. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, memory recall and math are a few of the test areas.

A high score in the NPOST gives police departments an indicator of the subject’s potential because the test asks questions that are relevant to skills a police cadet will learn at the academy.

High test scores give the police department an incentive on taking them in for more training or sending them to the Police Academy.

A series of physical examinations comes next. Potential employers can determine what kind of shape the applicants are in.

These tests include how many push-ups and sit-ups an applicant can do in one minute, as well as how fast he or she can run a mile.

If the subject passes these tests with high scores, a background check comes next. Tests in this section include a lie detector exam, a drug screening and a psychiatric evaluation.

All in all, the entire police officer (training regimen) can take up to six months. Those who are not ready for such a strenuous experience are likely to fail early in the process.

Former University of Utah student Jesse Wood, 21, has been thinking about becoming a police officer since he was in high school.

“I was never set on what I wanted to do as far as a career or life plan, but I can always remember considering becoming a cop,” Wood said.

A profession that requires its employees to have a gun strapped to a hip for the entire day is anything but a safe job, but Wood isn’t thinking of future employment in terms of its safety factor.

“Is the job potentially dangerous? It absolutely is. But walking across the street is dangerous in its own way. It’s really not about if I can get killed, but more about if I can make a positive impact on society.”

The opportunity to change the world around him drives Wood toward becoming a police officer.

Yuki Leavitt, on the other hand, has considered being a cop because of the heroism that comes with the title. Leavitt’s catch is that he doesn’t know if being a hero is worth hours and hours of work it takes to get there.

“I’m a college student and as much as I’d like what comes along with the title of becoming a police officer, I just don’t know if I have the time,” the 21-year-old Leavitt said.

“Becoming a cop is not as simple as filling out an application and handing it in to see if you got the job. There is test after test. I have plenty of tests I’m taking in school right now.”

Burbank has been close and personal with danger multiple times in his career. While he says that most officers will never be put in a situation where they must use their firearm, he also knows that moment may always present itself.

“I’ve never shot anybody,” Burbank said, “I’ve been involved in 13 separate incidents where I could have used deadly force by the statute and been OK under the law, but have not.”

Burbank believes there might even be a danger in using a firearm in the line of duty.

“The majority of law enforcement officers that discharge their gun in the line of duty don’t last beyond five years after doing so. They change their mind and they leave the profession.”

Your Community Is Safe

By Jason Nowa

Being there for each other in a community can be burdensome for families trying to live in a safe environment. With Utah’s ever growing population there is more criminal activity throughout the years, and families tend to lean upon the local police for safety. This can be a constant concern for worried citizens. Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank (Voices of Utah) says “We are here for you. There’s no reason to be afraid.”

Burbank spoke recently to students at the University of Utah about the Salt Lake Police Department and the efforts his officers put forth to keep the state’s largest city safe.

Burbank, 46, has been on the force nearly half of his life, or 21 years on the job.

Burbank emphasized the need for the eyes and ears of all Salt Lake City residents in fighting crime. Last year alone there were 12,000 burglaries, he said. There are only so many police officers to go around, but, he said, many more citizens are able to see and report criminal activity. Everyone in a community can be a watchdog.

“Our role is to prevent crime,” Burbank said. “ We can only truly prevent crime when the community helps us and gives us a call.”

Communication skills can help descalate a tense situation very quickly if an officer can get into the mind of an individual. In spite of stereotypes from TV cop shows, most real police officers will never fire a service revolver in the line of duty, Burbank said.  The chief’s philosophy is to calm a difficult disturbance in various ways before ever thinking of drawing a weapon. In an unruly crowd, for instance, popular wisdom might demand police put on riot gear and use mace at any sign of danger. Burbank said the use of these measures at first puts on a defensive tactic and might quickly enrage an already excited crowd.

“Pepper spray is a use of force. There are other ways to calm a conflict,” he said.

He wants to remember to observe every person’s constitutional rights and the ability to voice opinions. Burbank’s approach would be to first have a conversation with people to help them, followed by telling them their options and then to put into action the safest decision possible.

Burbank said there is gang violence (Voices of Utah) in the Salt Lake area, mostly in Glendale and West Valley City. There are about 5 officer shootings a year. The law defines a gang as two or more people gathered and involved in criminal activity. Burbank said the majority of officers involved with shooting someone usually don’t last beyond five years on the job after an incident.

The gang violence in Salt Lake has become more silent in recent years with gangs staying off the police radar and drug dealing mostly. During his tenor he said the biggest gang he had to deal with was a Tongan Crip gang in Glendale but they are mostly nonexistent nowadays. Anybody that is involved in any way with gang activity whether they commit an actual crime or not are considered suspects and will be jailed for whatever involvement they have. Burbank emphasized this would help crack down on the friends who are just along for the joy ride.

Ethical dilemmas occur daily as Burbank emphasized, “We are part of the community, and we work for the public. And my responsibility is to not allow racial stereotyping. I will not allow my officers to act as such.”

Salt Lake Police officer in charge of Public Relations, Cary Wichmann, mentioned that police officers jobs are very serious in nature and that any help the community can ever provide is helpful information.

The Metro Gang Unit (Voices of Utah) was created to establish identity, control, and prevent criminal gang activity. This force provides data and assistance to all law enforcement agencies. This unit also provides helpful information for youth on alternatives to being involved in a gang, and provides education for the public about the destructiveness of the gang lifestyle.

The Metro Gang Unit works in part with the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake.

The UPD is a helpful specialized force that serves various communities within suburban Salt Lake. These participating cities share the costs with neighboring communities which save local governments and reduce the tax burdens of citizens. The pool of services that the UPD provides is SWAT, forensics, records, dispatches, K-9, and media services.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder is the CEO of the UPD. Winder oversees local precincts but that each precinct has their own commander which was chosen by the given city. Commanders are those who run the precincts and have authority over traffic, patrol, and crossing guards. Winder explained the organization of the UPD. Eight elected officials from participating communities serve as the Board of Directors over the UPD. They oversee global and local policies along with operational, budgetary, and human resource issues.

The Executive Management has Winder as the county sheriff serving as CEO. There are also financial and human resource management advisers. The various communities have joined together to have the UPD serve their cities. Operational and cost efficiencies are achieved by the sharing of resources that ordinarily wouldn’t be fully utilized by a single community.

New plans for old problems


Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill recently voiced his policies on rehabilitating drug addicts while visiting a University of Utah class.

Gill, originally born in India, came to Utah in 1971 and is a graduate of the University of Utah and Lewis and Clark College of Law in Portland, Oregon.

Gill said that his interest in law started back when he was living in India. He described seeing a man who cleaned the Gill home for living wrongfully accused of stealing jewelry.

Authorities took the man in front of a crowd and beat him for the alleged crime. “I still remember as a little boy, walking out to the courtyard,” Gill said, “And they were wailing on him, they were beating on him”

This experience set the tone for how the rest of his life would play out. Gill began his career as a public prosecutor and after 15 years, he was appointed as chief Salt Lake City prosecutor by former Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Gill would go on to become the first Indian born district attorney in the history of the United States. Over the years Gill developed a passion for mental health issues and drug abuse, and the way that both tie together.

For Gill, mental health issues can lead to drug abuse, which then leads to prison for most. Unfortunately, instead of helping people with these problems while in prison and when they get out, he believes the system of continually sending them to prison becomes a habit.

“We as a result start locking up people that we dislike rather than locking up people that we are afraid of,” Gill said.

Numbers based on the people inside of the prisons is disproportionate to who is on the streets.

Two to five percent of people in society suffer from some kind of mental illness. Yet, 17 to 21 percent of people in prison suffer from some kind of mental illness.

How are these numbers so different and what different solutions are at society’s disposal?

Gill’s plan for the mentally ill who keep moving through the revolving door from the street, to prison and back again is for them to commit to a carefully supervised treatment plan.

Defendants who are ready to commit to a 12-36 month treatment plan will have support through Mental Health Court, administered by Third District Court in downtown Salt Lake City.

The treatment only excludes sex offenders, active DUI cases, excessively violent, and mentally incompetent people who cannot be treated with proper medication. This allows the program to reach a wide variety of people.

Gill believes, that if the people are ready to buckle down and commit to the treatment plan, then they are ready to be free of their addiction and able to treat their mental disease with some responsibility and determination.

Offering respect to those who struggle with mental illness pays off, Gill believes. “The worst thing you can do to a person is to make them insignificant, to disrespect them.”

So far, the program has been a success in several ways. The state has lowered the cost to treat the people in the program while increasing their care at the same time.

The average length of a prison stay for program participants has also decreased.

Chad Myers, a recovering drug addict who lives in Salt Lake City supports Gill’s view of restorative justice, including mental health court.

“I’ve been sober for four months now and I credit the majority of my sobriety to the programs put in place for me,” Myers said.

“My rehabilitation is going to be a battle that I face my entire life, but if I continue to be strong and work with the resources around me then I know that I will succeed in the end.”

Although Myers does not have any mental health, he still knows the depths of addiction.

“Every day is going to be a struggle because I was heavily addicted to cocaine, but I am confident in myself and what I am doing to know that I will not be going back.”

%d bloggers like this: