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Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez Ready To Serve Another Term

Summit County Sheriff's Office

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez was re-elected to another term this week. That wasn’t a surprise, since the Sheriff, and several other county incumbents, had no one filing to run against them this year.

The Sheriff talked about that—and other recent news from his department—in an interview with KPCW.

The Sheriff said he was honored to be returned to office. But he said that, personally, he thinks it isn’t good for the public when half-a-dozen county offices have no election contests.

For his next term, Martinez said he wants to continue the direction his office has followed so far.

“With this holistic approach to law enforcement, more community centric and continue with the path that I’ve outlaid. I now am looking and segwaying into more personnel as I’d like to expand some programs and continue with this approach. A lot of being community centric law enforcement is not just going to a call, and taking the report, and then leaving the person at their home. I believe there’s more that we can be doing in the community. I think there’s more that we can be doing that’s proactive. That’s part of my approach now moving forward.”

On another topic, we asked him about Utah’s controversial lowered blood-alcohol standard for drivers, which will take effect at the end of the year December 30th. The Sheriff said that won’t lead his department to change its practices.

“I don’t think there’s anything that necessarily we’re gearing up for per say. I think its just more of a—if we see somebody intoxicated we’re going to deal with them as we have in the past. I know the laws have changed to the .05 and that becomes the new standard for DUI, but before we can even have a traffic stop we have to observe a violation. We have to observe a reason to stop them. The reality is we’re not going to be increasing our patrols. Obviously I believe there’s going to be, statistically if the number is lower for DUI and we pull people over at the same rate we are we’re probably going to run into more people that meet that new threshold; and then we’ll just deal with that at that time.”

Officers commonly pull over vehicles and check on the drivers, if they notice any issues like inoperative tail lights, or improper lane changes. But some citizens say they have been detained for the most trivial of reasons.

Martinez said it’s not his policy to go “hunting” for drivers. He said they will pull over a car that has a significant issue.

“There’s a more important like a tail-light out. That becomes a hazard to the motoring traffic and somebody that’s behind them. I want them to pull them over with the purest intent to notify them that your tail-light is out. That’s it, we’re there to make a notification that their tail-light is out help them be more safety conscious. If it by chance now, when we go there with the pure intent of notifying them nothing more and all of the sudden windows roll down, eyes are blood shot, the odor of alcohol is just emanating out of the vehicle. Now that’s something that they fell into. I don’t want them to use that as a pretext stop to try to find that person that’s DUI. That’s not what I believe our intent is to go out there. If we find something, we should act upon it.”

Also, he said was affected by the fire season last summer. While he’s not involved with blazes in the national forest, he is technically the supervisor on fires in the unincorporated county—such as the Tollgate Fire.

“I know nothing about firefighting, so I pull in the professionals. As my job I can relinquish that authority to the fire marshal, which I did almost immediately. Statutorily I’m responsible for those fires. We had the one up in Tollgate and I thought that was handled extremely well between myself, the fire chief of Park City Fire District and the fire marshal. We were able to get the resources that we needed, and have it extinguished before nightfall.”

On another item, the Sheriff’s department conducted an active-shooter drill this week at South Summit Middle School. Martinez said it’s an annual event they conduct in different schools around the county, with participation from teachers, students and parents.

“We get the drama club involved as well. The drama club gets to put on all their make-up and we do a full scenario to keep the first responders sharp and know how to respond to a situation like this. We don’t tell the first responders where it’s going to be. We don’t tell them how many. They have to figure it out on their own. We’re trying to make it as realistic as possible. By doing that, by pulling the alarm system, having the smoke machines, having the students dressed up and looking like their injured and blood and such. It creates for an environment that really makes it as realistic as possible. Like I said, we don’t tell them where its going to be, how many. We want them to figure that on their own. Then it gives us the opportunity to debrief it to find out where our holes are, to fix it and to improve upon that.”

He said they take care to ensure safety, such as having no loaded weapons in the drill.

“We have a staging area and everybody’s weapon is checked. Everybody’s weapon then has a flag put through it. So, you can visually see that the weapon is not a real weapon. The active gunman will have a weapon that has blanks in it. So, it has that sound of what a real weapon sound like. The officers going in, the first responders going in, their weapons are checked, double-checked, triple-checked and the flags put through it. So when they do enter, they are not loaded at all.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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