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Farewell to Sandy chief

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A steady stream of motorcycles and squad cars wound its way to a Sandy cemetery Saturday as a last tribute to Police Chief Sam Dawson who was laid to rest after an emotional two-hour funeral.

Hundreds of police officers, both local and from afar, as well as firefighters, civic leaders and friends, turned out to say farewell to the Sandy chief. Dawson, 56, died in a motorcycle accident July 2.

The service was held in the Jordan High School auditorium filled with uniformed officers and civilians. Those who couldn't be in the auditorium observed the service in an overflow area in another room.

"We are celebrating a great life," said Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, one of Dawson's many friends. "I know beyond a doubt where Sam is today. He is in Paradise."

Dolan said he didn't realize how much he had lost — how much everyone had lost — until the day after the accident. "I hadn't lost a friend. I had lost a brother."

Although the mood was solemn and many shed tears, laughter often punctuated the service as speakers recalled Dawson's wit and sense of fun. At one point, Dolan asked the audience to gaze at the picture of Dawson on the printed funeral program. "That's the face that convinced me to buy a golf club membership instead of remodeling my wife's kitchen," Dolan said as the audience chuckled.

One speaker after another recalled how devoted Dawson was to the community, to his police officers and most of all, to his family. "He would always say, 'The reason for my success is because of my perfect family,' " recalled West Jordan Police Chief Kenneth McGuire.

McGuire also praised Dawson's "servant-leadership style" that McGuire said begins with a desire to serve that evolves into effective leadership — a contrast to those who jump into top positions because they lust for power. McGuire also remembered how Dawson would let others get the attention and praise for a new idea even if it was Dawson's.

Bob Wright, Snow College chief of police who formerly worked with Dawson, recalled how hard it was to leave Sandy and his boss. But when Wright decided to take the new job, Dawson was supportive. "What was first in his mind was what was best for me, not for him. He was unselfish," Wright said.

Wright quoted Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

"Chief Sam Dawson let his light so shine, and we all have been affected by his light and his example," Wright said. "Brothers and sisters, we can keep Sam's light lit by how we live and how we treat others."

Richard J. Bergan, Sandy's director of animal services and a longtime friend, outlined Dawson's life and listed his many professional accomplishments.

Dawson worked hard on a 20-year retirement program for police, strove to establish a protocol for handling officer-involved shootings, and worked to create a program involving spouses of police who have been involved in some serious incident.

Bergan recalled the early years when the two of them were patrol officers with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. Even then, Dawson displayed a gift for diplomacy, the ability to establish a rapport with people, and his respect for citizens' rights as well as strong loyalty to fellow officers.

Dawson also was eminently pragmatic. "If you knew Sam, if there was a problem, he'd fix it or get it fixed," Bergan said.

Dawson was the first of two Utah police chiefs to die this week. Roosevelt Police Chief Cecil Gurr was killed Friday night in the line of duty.

E-MAIL: lindat@desnews.com