SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) ABC’s new hit show ‘The Rookie’ follows a construction worker who becomes a police officer at 40. Well, here in Utah a former construction worker and construction manager just became a UHP Trooper at the age of 50. Meet Utah’s rookie in this Behind the Badge report.
When Daren Walker was a teenager in little Fountain Green, he had a chance to work with the one and only city police officer – Greg Johnson. “Just watching his interaction – what he did as an officer – that’s the real bug put in me saying that’s what I want to do.” And what young Daren wanted to do was someday work for the Utah Highway Patrol. “My goal was to always be a trooper. No other agency. It was just trooper. I liked the badge. I liked the uniform.”
Instead of going into law enforcement, Daren began a career in construction management – overseeing subdivision developments and working for Edge Homes. “In the construction industry its build and make people happy.”
Then, about a year ago – a social media moment put him on a path to go from building subdivisions to working in a patrol division. “Highway Patrol popped up on Facebook one day and I said – what do you think, honey? She said – ‘Might as well. Let’s try it.”
So, at the age of 50, and with five grandchildren – Daren Walker headed off to the police academy. Don Hudson asks: So, what was it like going into the academy and training with all those younger recruits? Trooper Walker responds: “I was, honestly, scared to death. I didn’t show it. But I was scared – am I going to be able to do this? Am I going to be able to keep up with these young guys?”
Fast forward to this past summer – and the man who worked in construction for more than two decades was now working the roads as a UHP Trooper. Don Hudson asks: “Tell me about your first day – by yourself – on the road.” Trooper Walker responds: “That was a scary day.” “That first day – going on my own and being in the car alone. Scared to death – mumbling on the radio.” “And pulling that first car – I remember that first car, she was speeding. And walking up I was used to someone being behind me every time.” Don Hudson: “I imagine you’re over that anxiousness. No.” “I can’t say that I’m over that.”
Trooper Walker says that’s because every call – every stop – has an unknown element to it. “You never know if something is going to happen. And that fear – can always be inside you and every stop is totally different. You don’t get the same. And walking up to each car – you’re ready. You have to be ready for something to go wrong – so, its always there. That anxiety is always a little bit there. And I think it has to be (there) in order for us to stay on our toes.”
And as for the big career change – Trooper Walker says he has no regrets.”This gave me an opportunity to go out and help people.” “The whole goal for me was helping people get home safely,”
We also had a chance to talk about the teamwork that it takes to help people on the highways. You can hear what Trooper Walker had to say about that in the web extra below.
You can nominate an officer, firefighter or other first responders for a future Behind the Badge story at https://www.good4utah.com/badge or email me about a first responder and his or her agency at email@example.com.