SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – She went from an accounting desk to patrolling the streets after a life-changing incident. Here’s this weeks Behind the Badge report with Officer Zephani Huang.
We begin with an arrest in progress in early July. You can see two officers – one in uniform and one in plain clothes trying to get a suspect out of a car.
“Get out of the car now. You’re going to get tased.” The dangerous suspect resists arrest. Cottonwood Heights Officer Zephani Huang says the man was on the run from Utah County.
“He actually hit an officer with his car – attempted to run over some innocent people in an attempt to flee.” Officer Huang deploys her taser. You can hear the man scream. “I deployed my taser, but I took off the prongs… it is painful, but it’s not the full effect.”
It’s an intense scene and during this time Officer Huang says a lot of things were running through her mind.
“How can we control this situation – how can we make it safe?” Part of that concern was due to the fact several people were standing nearby. “I did not want this man to start potentially running people over or trying to flee it was a huge safety risk for everybody.”
Fortunately, more officers who had been looking for the suspect rolled in. And after a few seconds, officers are able to handcuff the suspect, talk to him, pat him on the back to let him know its OK and get him to calm down.
Fast forward two weeks and we’re back with Officer Huang as she patrols the streets of Cottonwood Heights. A driver with expired tags avoids getting a ticket.
“I’m just going to give you a warning today” During this time we talk about law enforcement – and being a cop. “Were the ones who answer the call when you dial 911. “
That is true, but it’s also a new role for Huang. You see, she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 and worked as an accountant. But while in Hawaii in 2018, she had a life-changing experience.
“All of sudden we hear this drone coming from our cell phones and everyone’s cell phone is doing it. It says on the screen – there is an ICBM headed to Hawaii – this is not a drill. Take cover.”
She says she felt helpless and made a vow – never again.
“That day I made a promise to myself and to God basically saying that if I live through this – I’m going to do good with my life. I’m going to do my best to make a difference. I’m going to do my best to help people.”
Fortunately, the missile was a false alarm.
Still, one year later, she was wearing a badge and beginning her new career and breaking down barriers.
“Were members of your community. Were here to answer your questions. Were here to address your concerns.”
Officer Huang knows she is not physically intimidating.
“It’s not every day you see a cop that looks like me.” But she says she can hold her own and can help people. “When your day is so bad and something has just happened and you need help – we’re here. That’s a gift to me. I can do my best to help those in their utmost time of need.”
And for this 26-year-old – the reward of police work is knowing she is simply serving and protecting her community. “I don’t need to be thanked – I don’t need to be recognized. It feels really good.”
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WEB EXTRA: OFFICER HUANG
Zephani Huang was born in China. When she was 2 years old her family moved to the United States and lived on the East Coast. Five years later, her family moved to Utah. She considers this her home and attended middle school and high school here. She graduated from The University of Pennsylvania and was working as an accountant when she decided to go into law enforcement. By the way, she says her favorite part of the job is interacting with kids and helping break down barriers.