Monday, October 26, 2015

Provology 101 - Police Department, Courts

Provology 101, a series of classes that give a behind-the-scenes look at how Provo City runs, has given City departments the chance to show and tell about what they do for Provo. One of the participants, Anona Sobczak, has been sharing her experiences on Facebook and gave us permission to share them with you.

September 17, 2015

Provology 101: We went to the police station then we went to court! Hopefully not a recurring thing for us. The police department was fascinating. The officers seemed amped up from an earlier chase down of a fugitive/escapee who had assaulted a police officer in Oregon, I'll have to see if it's in my paper today. They were generally optimistic about the city as they presented with a pinch of humor thrown in. We tried on some body armor, then learned about the wide range of services the police provide. We have a population of around 120,000 people and 105 officers for all those people. Most other cities would have around 187 officers for that population. In 2014 there were 65,535 calls for service. Wow!
Animal control got a shout out for their hard work and recent pig impounding. We kind of got sidetracked by the topic of neighbors with dogs, but hey, it's a problem that impacts a lot of us.

We learned that the parking enforcers aren't cops, just trained civilians, and the hardest part of that job is driving a left-handed vehicle (like a mail van). The city just bought a license plate reader so they can tell when cars are parked for more than two hours downtown. Before they were using chalk on tires. (If I had known this I might have taken a few more risks parking downtown).

Random things: They get sued a lot for everything. You can go in the bike lane to turn right if it's not occupied. They have a bank of computers searching for child porn users, and currently all their rape kits are out for testing. (So getting rid of backlog problem like in other places). They're getting rid of the DARE program and replacing it.

How can you get involved in the city when it comes to the police department? Most of our involvement is usually limited to getting pulled over. Which by the way, they target areas that have high accident rates, rather than just sit at four way stops all day to collect fine money. Crime analysis sounds fascinating, and you can go online to to see what crimes are happening here and where they are happening.

You can attend the "Citizen's Academy" which apparently involves rappelling and blowing things up and generally learning more about the police. We had a former attendee in our class who said it was great and well worth your time. Right now you would contact Richard Fergusen of the police dept. to sign up for that, but soon you'll be able to do it online. There is also a Citizens Advisory Board that meet once a month with the police and discuss things like race, public relations, and policy. The Provo police are moving to a body camera system and this board will help craft the policy for using the cameras.

This is the best class ever--no homework, no tests, and every class is interesting. That Citizen's Academy sounds like more of the same, so I think I'll sign up for that next.

Hour 2:
"Come visit us in court!" That was Judge Romney's takeaway message to us as we visited Provo's Justice Court and learned about the City Attorney's office and the legal services they provide. I wasn't sure what to expect from this half of the class, and it seemed like there was some worry that we might find this part of the city dull. Au contraire. There were as many questions for our presenters as there were for the police, maybe more because we weren't sure exactly what they did.

Camille Williams, the assistant city attorney who spoke to us, asked everyone in her office what citizens should know about the Attorney's Office, and they said to tell us that they represent the city as an entity, not individuals living in the city. For example, don't call them to help with your divorce. This seemed obvious to me, but apparently they get a lot of calls for help.

Anyway, they deal with so many parts of the city, from ADA compliance to eminent domain issues to Google Fiber issues. You'll have to take the class to learn more about this complex department!

We went behind the scenes of Justice Court with Judge Romney, looking at holding cells, the court, his chambers, etc. The court itself is across from Home Depot in Provo, and it was awarded the Justice Court of the Year award this year out of 100+ courts. Reasons you might go there: parking ticket problems, small claims, jury duty, witness duty, misdemeanor trial, mental health court, domestic violence court. They are funded by the city, but Judge Romney doesn't know what the fines he levies are used for--this helps him stay impartial. The thing that stood out to me was Judge Romney saying he loved his job. Not many people can say that, (especially about dealing with peoples problems all day!) and his passion was reflected as he talked to us.

In our city, the mayor is the executive branch, the council is the legislative branch, and the courts are the judicial branch. (I used to think the mayor and the council were kind of the same thing, I thought this was a good explanation of roles.)

How can you get involved? In 2016 you will vote on your ballot as to whether you want to retain Romney as a judge or not. Go to to see how he and other judges are rated or become a courtroom volunteer.

Go visit a court in session! Deter your kids from a life of crime! Go to and look at the court calendar for dates. We were encouraged to do this and see our legal system in action. Sounds like an interesting Girl Scouts activity!

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