The Utah Peace Officers Association gathered in their annual memorial service on May 6 at 2 p.m. in the Utah State Capitol Rotunda. This year Deputy Jeremiah Johnson from the Emery County Sheriff's Office was honored with his name being placed on the memorial. The memorial at the capitol has been in place for two decades and was placed there under the direction of Gov. Norm Bangerter. He felt it was essential for the people of the state of Utah to be grateful for the ultimate sacrifice given by the officers and for their names to be forever bronzed upon the plaque.
Clarke Christensen, chaplain greeted those assembled. Many members of the Johnson family and deputies and officers from the Emery County Sheriff's Office attended the memorial service. The Utah Department of Public Safety Ensemble sang the national anthem. The prayer was given by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtliff. Amber Young played a piano solo entitled, "I Heard Him Come."
Ken Wallentine, president of the UPOA along with Sheriff Lamar Guymon and Jeremiah's wife, Lisa Johnson placed the name of Jeremiah Kirk Johnson upon the wall. Also helping place the name was Jeremiah's son Trevor Johnson.
The guest speaker for the program was the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Boyd K. Packer. He said, "We need to honor police officers. They are the watchmen of the night." Pres. Packer asked the audience to imagine dusk settling over the land without police officers present. He said we have a responsibility to support the men and women who watch over us. "We expect a lot out of you, we expect you to save lives, deliver babies, counsel people, settle domestic disputes, help at accidents, find lost children and be calm, wise and brave and inspired beyond normal human beings. You are never off duty," said Pres. Packer.
Pres. Packer said that officers must be well equipped with the best of equipment. "If less than the best, we endanger ourselves," he stressed. He said if adequate funds are not spent then costs will cycle back. Rehabilitation of offenders and social ills must be addressed or problems will escalate. "Officers must be able to provide for their families, officers deserve worthy compensation. Public officials should avert cutting budgets and be careful," said Pres. Packer.
Pres. Packer related a story about an accident his son was involved in. The police officer called and asked if he owned a green station wagon. Pres. Packer said yes, he did. The officer explained that his son was not seriously injured and that the first thing his son had said to the officer was, "I want to talk to my Dad." Pres. Packer thanked the officer for helping his son. The officer explained that they don't get many thank you's from people.
Pres. Packer also reminded citizens of the part they should play in safety when he described another accident which he had been in, where some men stopped to help and directed traffic and lifted his car out of the traffic lane. He said they exemplified what all citizens should do. He said we must have respect for what law enforcement officers do, especially if we think how it would be without them. Pres. Packer told the story of the first officer to lose his life in Utah. Rodney Badger in 1853 was sent by Brigham Young to aid immigrants in crossing the river. A wagon overturned in the river and Badger was able to save the mother and four of the children before he was swept away.
In 150 years, there have been 112 officers who have lost their lives. "The price for peace and safety must be paid," said Pres. Packer. He said officers must deal with terrible and revolting accident scenes, search and rescues which end happily and those that don't; scenes which are not easily erased from the mind. These watchmen of the night spare us and protect us."
"We cannot leave them unsupported if we do we'll find we need them more than ever. We pay tribute and support them and their families every day and I invoke a blessing on all who protect and support us in the state of Utah," concluded Pres. Packer.
Reverend France Davis from the Calvary Baptist Church gave the closing prayer.
Lisa Johnson said, "It's been a hard time for me. We are coming up on a year since Jeremiah was killed, but being able to see him honored and called a hero gives my kids something to look up to. It helps to know what a great man he was and he can still influence my kids' lives."