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Sign of peace: Catholic school students acknowledge Bountiful police as peacekeepers

BOUNTIFUL — Between their belt and gear, law enforcement officers carry about 20 pound around their waists.

There's a holster, handgun and ammunition clip, of course. Handcuffs. Pepper spray. Taser. Baton. Latex gloves.

"It's like carrying around 2 gallons of milk around your waist at all times," says Bountiful Assistant Police Chief Edward Biehler.

"What do you guys think is our best tool that a police officer has?" he asked a group of eighth-graders from St. Olaf Catholic School who toured the Bountiful Police Department on Wednesday.

"Our best tool that we use is our mouth. We don't want to hurt people. We don't want to use these tools. As a general rule, we talk to people and say, 'Don't do that.' If people comply, we don't use any force at all," Biehler said.

St. Olaf's eighth-grade class visited the police department to deliver, on behalf of the Bountiful school's 168 students, a check for $865.36. The gift honors Bountiful police officers' efforts to keep their community safe and peaceful.

The money was raised through the school's "Casual for a Cause" effort, which gives students the option of dressing casually instead of wearing school uniforms in exchange for cash donations.

St. Olaf students are conducting service projects throughout the year to foster peace locally and globally in keeping with the school year's theme, "Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me."

The students also led a prayer of mercy, justice and peace in the police department's lobby.

Although St. Olaf students had decided to honor Bountiful police earlier this fall, the gift took on even greater significance after the recent death of West Valley City officer Cody Brotherson, who was killed while attempting to help other officers stop a fleeing vehicle, said Principal Laurie Jacobs.

"We are very grateful, very grateful for you and all of the police officers for risking your lives every day," Jacobs said. "We thank you."

Biehler told the students that most people police encounter are "good people who are making bad choices. I would say a small percentage of people are evil, truly evil people. I could have made very different choices in my life that could have gotten me into different situations."

That point resonated with eighth-grader Samuel Van Dongen, whose father is a police officer.

"My dad, being an officer, he says that a lot. He says he always needs to treat them like people. They're people who made just one bad choice or a couple that led them to a really bad spot," Van Dongen said.

Jentrie Gordy, an eighth-grader, said she welcomes the chance to learn more about what police do.

"They don't have jail here. It's mostly about helping people," Gordy said.

"You can definitely see how they are peacemakers. They have all these routines here to ensure our community is a peaceful community," she said.