The latest Utah Army National Guard call-up is hitting the city in one area that it can least afford - law enforcement.
Some 708 members of the 1457th Engineer Battalion, Utah Army National Guard, were placed on alert Tuesday for possible activation to support Operation Desert Storm, in the largest call-up since the Persian Gulf crisis began. The 1457th has both offensive capabilities, in being able to clear obstacles for ground troops, and defensive capabilities in creating obstacles for opposing ground troops.Included in those Guard members, who are due to report to Fort Lewis, Wash., by Sunday are 185 soldiers from American Fork and 127 from Provo. Maj. Robert Nelson, public affairs officer, said those Guardsmen will be deployed to Germany, although deployment locations could change.
Provo Police Capt. Duane Fraser said that among those soldiers are three of his 45 patrol officers, including two full-time employees. That brings the total to three full-time and two part-time employees that the department has lost to the crisis. No other law-enforcement agencies, city departments or businesses the Deseret News contacted had lost such substantial numbers.
Fraser said those losses "are having a terrible impact on us. The first two men we lost created a struggle, but these additional three are forcing us to make a major reorganization in our patrol shifts."
For example, he said he has had to take some officers off other duties to cover some patrol shifts, disband some patrol shifts and reschedule days and hours off for patrolmen.
"It seems to be our patrol area that's been hit first," Fraser said. "Those kind of numbers wouldn't hit larger employers very hard, but for us, that is a substantial percentage of our patrolmen."
Additionally, Fraser said seven more employees in the department could be called up, "which could leave us dangerously short. Already we're feeling a pinch, but we'll still have everything covered. It may take us a little longer, but we'll get the job done."
Compare those numbers to Orem's Geneva Steel, where 16 employees have already been called to active duty. Geneva spokeswoman Mary Kay Lazarus said that although the plant has 2,700 employees, "We miss the efforts of each individual employee who's gone."
However, in a strict business sense, those numbers "don't really make a substantially negative impact," Lazarus said. "Especially when those employees are distributed throughout our ranks, that's a small number."
Similarly, 10 out of Brigham Young University's 3,000-strong work force have been called so far. One employee has already returned to Utah. BYU spokesman Brent Harker said that since those employees are scattered throughout the university's employee base, the crisis has not had a large impact, from a work standpoint.
In addition, 41 day-school students have been called up from the university. Paul C. Richards, BYU spokesman, said that another 10 could be called up this semester. Last semester, BYU had 14 day students and four evening-school students called up. Students get a full refund on tuition, books and fees. They'll be given automatic readmittance to the school when they return and if they have been living in student housing their spouses can remain there.
In the terms of a human emotional standpoint the crisis "is having a tremendous impact," Harker said. "Quite a few of our students and employees have family members or know someone in the gulf, so it's very hard on them."
All three businesses have similar policies for replacing Guardsmen called with temporary employees or even leaving the position open, as well as guaranteeing a job for those called to active duty.
However, for Fraser, replacing employees lost creates a problem because patrol officers must not only complete basic peace officers training, but also become familiar with the Provo Police Department's jurisdictional area and receive field training before they are qualified for patrol shifts, he said.
"We've already depleted the last bunch of officers who finished at the academy," Fraser said. "The next group will have to go through the training, so that could really hurt if we have to go that way."