on the front line
Deputies fight crime,
fight to feed families
April 30, 2009 | LOGAN -- It is 6:23 on a Wednesday
evening. Deputy Brian Groves has been in service for
a little more than 15 minutes. He is quietly writing
a citation in the area of 200 South when three piercing
beeps followed by the voice of a dispatcher crackle
over the radio, breaking the silence.
"All units, vehicle pursuit in progress heading southbound
on Main," the dispatcher advises.
The fifth-year deputy's ears perk up and he spins
his Crown Victoria cruiser around and gets ready to
either join the chase or deploy spike strips, should
the cars come that far south.
"You might get to see some action after all," he says,
as I brace myself and wonder what I really signed on
But the action never comes at least not this time.
The drunken evader pulls his car into his own driveway
and surrenders to Logan police.
As quickly as it began, it is over, and Groves goes
back to the less dramatic, but nevertheless important,
work at hand. He drives a few blocks north to assist
Sgt. Wyatt Goring in dealing with a child custody issue.
In the time most civilian workers spend pouring their
first cup of coffee and reading their morning e-mail,
Groves has already run the gamut of emotion and adrenaline.
Who needs coffee?
With his shift scheduled to end at 2 a.m., Groves
might actually need that coffee, especially with a second
job as a security officer that requires him to show
up a few hours after clocking out of the sheriff's office.
With the state of the economy, working two jobs is
becoming less of a rarity and more the norm. Unlike
their civilian counterparts, law enforcement officers
don't always have the luxury of dropping everything
and going home just because their shift is over.
On his way home early Saturday morning, Groves pulled
over a vehicle resulting in an arrest of a person driving
under the influence of alcohol. The incident began at
1:58, two minutes before he was scheduled to get off.
Four hours later, he finally climbed into bed.
Even on his days off, he's often called in to work
in one aspect or another.
"It seems like every one of my Mondays that I'm supposed
to have off is spent in court," he said.
But Groves is far from alone in having to hold down
a second job. Many of his colleagues at the Cache County
Sheriff's Office do the same, some taking on two and
even three part-time jobs on the side.
Groves said it would be nice to be able to hold down
only one job to pay the bills and feed his family, but
that it's just not possible. He said the problem of
low wages begins with misconceptions about police officers
"In some parts of the country, law enforcement has
come a long way, because it's considered to be a profession,
which we are. It takes a lot of training and a lot of
time to be good at this job," Groves said. "Unfortunately,
there are some parts of the country, Utah being one
of them, where the mindset of city councils and county
government is, ‘You became cops because you couldn't
do anything else.'"
That perception is wrong, Groves said, and does a
great disservice to the morale of law enforcement officers.
"There are really two professions people expect perfection
out of one is doctors and one is cops," he said.
One thing is certain: there is always something to
occupy the deputy's attention. When not actively engaged
in a call, Groves is on patrol, keeping an eye out for
incidents needing attention. One way of seeking out
problems is by constantly entering license plates into
his cruiser's on-board computer, which alerts him to
any registration, insurance or other issues.
Another play in Groves' book is familiarity with both
the area and its residents. Having been assigned to
Hyrum for most of his tenure with the sheriff's office
helps that greatly.
"It's a pretty powerful tool to use," Groves said.
"I'll be driving down the road and see someone I just
stopped two days ago for driving on a suspended license.
That gives me reasonable cause to pull them over."
However, Groves admits there is a downside to such
close acquaintance with the residents of Hyrum.
"Familiarity can breed complacency, so you still have
to treat each call as if you've never met the person
before," he said.
This skill was put to the test Wednesday when he noticed
a man whom he had arrested before walking down a street.
He struggled to remember the man's name at the moment,
and hence was not able to search the database. About
half an hour later, the name popped into Groves' head
and he searched the database finding, to his dismay,
that the man had an active warrant for his arrest.
Later that night, though, his instincts were spot
on when he noticed a red pickup truck and started to
follow it. Upon running the registration, he learned
the owner had not insured it properly and pulled the
It wasn't long before Groves noticed both the driver
and passenger were flying the colors of the Sureño street
gang, and each had tattoos indicating such an affiliation.
When the driver failed to produce a valid driver's license,
the passenger offered an identification card.
When Groves ran the passenger's information, he learned
the man had an outstanding warrant. The deputy talked
to the men for several minutes until backup was able
to arrive from Mendon and the man could be taken into
"Out here, on most of our calls, we'll only have one
or two guys, maybe three [for backup]," Groves said.
"You have to know how to talk to people. Just because
you're wearing a badge and uniform doesn't preclude
someone from trying to take you out."
Groves firmly believes most people who have committed
crimes can change, but that there is an element that
"I'd say 95 percent of the people we deal with are
good people that have just made a mistake, made a bad
decision," he said. "Then you've got that 5 percent
who are genuine criminals. They're not going to reform.
They're going to be doing that their whole life."
But not all of the deputy's time spent on patrol is
doom and gloom. Even police work has its funny moments,
such as Saturday night when he pulled over a car on
suspicion of DUI. Groves asked the driver, who had not
been drinking, about a beer can under the seat. As she
raised it up to show it was still sealed, it hit a sharp
spot on the console and exploded, showering both the
driver and Groves with beer.
After the deputy jumped backwards a few feet, and
after a moment or two of disgust, the tension broke
and turned to laughter.
"Great," he said with a chuckle. "Now I smell like
That was one of the rare times Groves has laughed
about alcohol. He has a special fondness and a seemingly
strong talent for making DUI arrests and believes very
little, if any, good has ever come from the consumption
of alcohol. He said this sentiment stems at least in
part to a drunk driver who nearly crashed into the car
carrying his wife and children.
Even with five years, thousands of traffic stops and
hundreds of arrests under his belt, Groves admits that
he and his colleagues in law enforcement barely make
a dent in drug use and drunk driving.
"But we stem the tide. I do know that we do that,"
he said. "Think about what this country would be if
we didn't have law enforcement. It definitely keeps
some in check."
In a field where the money is bad, the risks are sky
high and the work barely makes a scratch, why do the
men and women of law enforcement continue to show up
to work every day?
Groves said his willingness to do the job day after
day is best summarized by a line from the latest Die
Hard movie wherein Bruce Willis' character is asked
why he puts up with the problems and risks that go with
being a cop.
He replies, "Who else is going to do it?"
Groves believes every occupation needs people who
are willing to do it, and police work is no different.
"You've got to have people willing to be journalists,
you've got to have people willing to be cops," Groves
said. "It takes people from all walks, from all kinds
to make the world go around. I guess that includes our