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Summit County Sheriff's Office recognized for its ethics and integrity

The Summit County Sheriff's Office received the Bill Daniels award for ethics last Friday.
Summit County Sheriff's Office
The Summit County Sheriff's Office received the Bill Daniels award for ethics last Friday.

Utah businessman Bill Daniels started the awards program in 2013 to recognize organizations that embody the spirt of ethics and integrity.

The award is given to organizations in three categories: Utah businesses, nonprofit organizations and government entities. The awards were handed out Friday in Salt Lake City.

Last year, Summit County was a finalist in the government category. This year, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office won out over Salt Lake County.

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez says he’s proud of his deputies and the fact that it was an outside governing board who determined the winner. He says deputies’ work with 19-year-old Connorjack Oswalt last year was a factor in the recognition.

Oswalt went missing from California in 2018 at age 16 and showed up in Summit County in 2021.

“I think a lot of agencies could have taken that situation and made it worse,” Martinez said. “He had a run-in with law enforcement in Las Vegas. They arrested him, tased him, handcuffed him and put him in jail. They eventually released him. He was just wandering the streets, made his way to Summit County. And through compassion, empathy, and working with him. I mean, it could have been easy, I guess to say, we could have rolled him up, put them in the back of a patrol vehicle, take him down to Salt Lake City, to shelter and just out of sight out of mind. But because of the ethics and leadership and integrity, they were able to discover that he was a missing child from California three years prior and return him to his family.”

Martinez says his deputies had a few run-ins with Oswalt and tried to provide him with food and shelter, but he never took them up on it. They couldn’t arrest him and bring him in because he hadn’t done anything wrong. And then one day, they had a breakthrough.

“It was a really cold morning,” Martinez recalled. “He was sleeping in front of the Jeremy Store. He was literally shivering when deputies arrived, and they invited him to sit in their vehicle and warm up. And in the past, he never took us up on any offer that we'd provided for him. I think because of the past interactions that were good, he took us up on that offer, he warmed up. And because of that, we were able to start having a dialogue with him and determine that there was more of a humanitarian cause here. And because of that, we're able to determine and find out that he was a missing child out of California.”

The award comes with a large plaque – and a sense of pride, Martinez says, in having a law enforcement organization that helped a young person in need.