Three in Salt Lake County given awards by sheriff’s association
SALT LAKE CITY — Law enforcement is a challenging job these days, especially with staffing shortages and more violent offenders on the streets and in jail. Three members of the Salt Lake County Sherriff‘s Office received awards last week from the Utah Sheriffs’ Association for the excellent leadership they show in their jobs.
The award recipients were all recognized for being the best at their jobs. Two of those men work here at the county jail, striving to help inmates learn the skills that will help them change.
“Teaching people skills that will help them lead productive lives when they leave our facilities,” Chief Deputy Matt Dumont said that’s the primary objective of the men and women who work at the Salt Lake County Jail.
He was awarded Utah Jail Commander of the Year, while Deputy Isaac Miera was awarded Utah Corrections Officer of the Year. Both men said that when they started working at the jail, they thought they would move on to law enforcement jobs on the street. But, they each discovered that helping inmates turn their lives around was fulfilling work, despite the ongoing challenges of the job.
Dumont said, the last two years have been unprecedented in terms of what they’ve dealt with at the jail: COVID-19, an earthquake, and increasingly violent inmates.
“About half of our population is made up of first or second-degree felons, which is unlike any other time in my career,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people in jail right now are felons. So, it’s a challenging time.”
There are more violent inmates than Dumont has seen in his 25 year career.
“But, our staff stands up to those challenges, finds creative and innovative solutions, and makes it work,” he said. Like the 200-hour life skills program led by Deputy Miera.
“We try to let them know they’re capable of being the men that they should be,” Miera said. Inmates learn anger and stress management, how to write a résumé, and interview for a job.
“I get to meet these guys who are arguably in one of their lowest parts of their life, and instill the values that they already carry with them, but they may have forgotten,” he said.
Miera’s coworkers said he’s deserving of the award because he treats inmates with dignity and respect. They said it’s obvious that he loves his job and wants to make a difference in the inmates’ lives.
“I have had family members and friends who have spent some time here, and I wouldn’t want them treated any other way,” he said.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera also presented John Patterson with the Utah Search and Rescue Member of the Year today because he was unable to attend the presentation last week.
Patterson joined Salt Lake County Search and Rescue 18 years ago, and is now the commander of that team.
“Once I joined the team, it was like an addiction,” he said. “Once you rescue somebody, you want to do it again.”
All 40 members are volunteers, ready to climb or ski a mountain to save a person in danger. It’s a four-season job in Salt Lake County.
“In the winter, it could be an avalanche rescue, or a snowmobile that’s stuck in the back country,” Patterson said. “In the summer, it could be a climber up on one of our many climbing walls that is stuck on the second or third pitch, and needs rescue off of it.”
Patterson has been on more than 600 rescues and believes it could be as many as 1,000.
When he first joined the team, they averaged 30 rescues a year. Now the team averages more than 70.
“Even after 20 years, once you get off a rescue where you’ve actually saved someone’s life, you can’t sleep. It’s just this overwhelming feeling that you’ve done something and it’s what keeps you coming back day after day,” Patterson said.
All three men were humble about the awards and said that the recognition is truly an acknowledgment of the strength of their teams.
“It’s very indicative of the incredible work that the men and women in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office corrections bureau do for the citizens of Salt Lake County every day,” Dumont said.
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