Domestic violence behind many of Utah's 2012 homicides
Remembering victims: Families, communities faced tragedies throughout year
"So many of our employees were talking and concerned about the Connecticut incident that we had to put out a letter internally talking about counseling and detailing our effort to protect and manage these situations — and this happened 3,000 miles away," he said. "What I was hearing from our commanders that there was a lot of talk going on how it really seemed to hit everybody."
Despite these high-profile incidents, Winder doesn't believe Utah or the nation is any less safe than it was before or that Utahns live in a more violent era than before. The difference today, he said, is that citizens are more instantaneously aware of what's happening in the world around them.
"Everybody is looking at their phone all the time, and there's Twitter and there's Facebook … and the world is now our neighborhood, specifically the U.S. And we're much more aware of what's going on with our 'neighbors.' So because of that, if you look at it in the macro, it's all going to heck in a hand basket. I just disagree," Winder said.
As another example of how of a tragedy spreads in this age of social media, Winder said he had heard that schools in Washington County were placed in lockdown following the public suicide of a teenager outside Bennion Junior High in Taylorsville in November.
How to respond to the violence that exists is something that will be debated. Winder said more resources need to be devoted to social services such as after-school programs for juveniles or drug and alcohol treatment programs.
"I personally believe we need to start looking at the causes of violence rather than the effect," he said.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said all felony filings in his office for the first 11 months of the year were up 8.5 percent over last year, with a "surge" of cases being filed in the second half of the year.
There were also a number of high-profile officer-involved shooting incidents during 2012, including:
• A 15-year-old boy with mental health issues, Sean Morrison, was shot and killed by Unified police officers after firing several shots at police officers while wearing body armor, a large trench coat and a ski mask and toting a .45-caliber handgun. The shooting was determined to be legally justified.
• In September, police shot and killed 39-year-old Anthony Mayhew after he threatened to injure officers with a bomb at a downtown Salt Lake TRAX platform. The shooting was also determined to be justified.
• In November, West Valley officers shot 21-year-old Danielle "Dee Dee" Willard. The incident remains under investigation.
Despite the high-profile incidents, Gill said that through mid-December, his office investigated less than half as may officer-involved shootings as it did during 2011. He attributed that to special training offered by his office to law enforcement agencies throughout the valley, something he plans to continue next year.
"We're going to pony up more than a quarter of a million dollars. We're putting our money where our mouth is to keep officers safe," he said.
Part of that training includes a new shooting simulator that teaches officers when to shoot and when not to shoot. The new simulator teaches officers to be aware of their entire surroundings.
"In the real world, the threat is 360-degree scenario," he said.
Gill also plans to establish a new task force consisting of investigators from several Salt Lake County law enforcement agencies to investigate officer-involved shootings. The task force will receive training that will bring "uniformity and consistency" in the way officer-involved shootings are investigated, he said.
Winder is supportive of the plan.
"The knowledge based with officer-involved shootings has really improved. The ability to understand both good and bad shootings has really improved. It's important we learn the latest and greatest and are all on the same page," he said.
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