Eight-year-old Duane Richens had just spent the entire day helping his grandfather try to burn an old tree stump on the family farm in the Uinta Basin. The pair had tried for hours, but it wasn't until the sun just began to set that they finally got the stump burning.
But no sooner did they get the stump burning well when Utah Highway Patrolman Sam Hatch pulled up in his black and white patrol car."It's getting late and you'd better put that fire out before it catches someone's house on fire," the trooper said.
Richen's grandfather promptly and without question began dousing the flames they has spent all day trying to start.
"Why put it out when we just got it started, grandpa?" the boy asked.
"Because when Sam Hatch says to do something, you do it," the grandfather said.
"And that's the way it was in the Uinta Basin," Richens said. "When God says to do something, most people don't do it. But when Sam Hatch says to do something, everybody does it.
"What my grandpa taught me stuck with me, and I wanted to generate the same kind of respect that Sam Hatch did. I knew in my heart I wanted to be a highway patrolman."
That was about 1945.
Today, Duane Richens is Col. S. Duane Richens, a 26-year veteran of the UHP, and newly appointed UHP superintendent. Richens was inaugurated Wednesday during ceremonies at the Peace Officers Standards and Training complex in Taylorsville.
Richens inherits a highway patrol program that ranks among the best in the nation, and the superintendent is pledging to make it even better, focusing the patrol's enforcement and public relations efforts on speed control, seat belt usage, driver attitudes and drunken driving.
Richens has seen a lot of death on Utah's highways since he joined the UHP in 1960. His first week on the job he was called to investigate an accident near Green River. His partner was out of town cutting Christmas trees, so Richens went by himself.
Richens found a crumpled car that had tried to pass in the fog and had smashed head on into a semi-trailer truck.
"I learned a lot that day," Richens said. "And after it was all over, I thought if I could help prevent that kind of accident from happening, being a highway patrol trooper was not a bad profession to be in. I still feel that way today."
The number of fatalities on Utah's highways has been creeping upward in 1988, and that concerns Richens. He sees too many drivers exceeding speed limits and far more who don't wear seat belts.
Richens hopes to build on the Arrive Alive program initiated by his predecessor, Col. Mike Chabries. Under that program, troopers take a few moments to educate those getting tickets on the hazards of excessive speed, not using seat belts and maintaining a good attitude.
"We're trying to explain to people that this (excessive speed, seat belt usage, etc.) is a real problem and you could end up real dead," Richens said. "Most have never stopped to realize what real dead means."
Officers have welcomed the role of educators, rather than their traditional role as hard-nosed enforcers. And by taking a few moments to courteously explain basic facts to motorists, Richens says troopers often make friends as they are writing citations.
"And that's certainly better than making an enemy of everyone we stop," Richens said.
Richens wants to take UHP's highway safety programs to high schools and community groups - programs that have paid exceptional dividends the past couple years. The UHP is also in the process of obtaining a $100,000 federal grant for pilot programs to enhance seat belt usage.
Richens also hopes his tenure in the UHP will see a marked increase in the use of technology by troopers in the field. He wants to see more in-car computers used, more mobile digital equipment and more high-tech tools "to get us into the 1980s. There is a lot of new technology to help police officers, and we need to take advantage of it."