MIDVALE, Utah (ABC4) – Handling a homeless person having a mental health crisis isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do, but the officer in this edition of Behind The Badge tells ABC4 it’s something he actually looks forward to.
The officer said it’s what being a police officer is all about.
Seeing the homeless population in Salt Lake County, few people know them better than Detective Mark Utley with Unified Police.
“It’s my job to interact with them, and go assist them,” says Detective Utley, Unified Police Shelter Resource and Mental Health Unit.
Working out of Unified’s Midvale precinct, Utley specializes in helping those suffering mental health issues or people living on the street. Utley explains his main job as building relationships of trust to hopefully get them in a more safe situation and help them receive the care they need.
“When you interact with people and they’re yelling and talking to themselves they scare you, but if you actually get to know them and the mental illnesses that they have there’s some really really good people that are there,” Utley continues. “They just want to be like me and you.”
He estimates 60% of police calls are responding to those experiencing mental anguish or struggling with stable housing. It’s why Utley spends as much time as he can working to qualify them for places like the Lifestar Village Family Support Center in Midvale, a privately owned facility, providing a stable place to stay and options to progress.
Why Utley is passionate about helping the homeless is simple, he said every officer becomes a cop to make a difference, where he can see it.
One of his favorite stories is with a homeless man he sees regularly, Det. Utley said the man recently found a wallet with over $160 dollars of cash still in it, IDs, and credit cards. Because he trusts the detective, he walked all the way to the police station, waited for over 24 hours for him, just to turn over the wallet with all the cash, all the IDs still in it.
Utley states it shows you how good some of our homeless with mental health struggles can be, and what you can get developing relationships with them