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‘Wake up and come together': Utahns offer support for police at Provo vigil

SHARE ‘Wake up and come together': Utahns offer support for police at Provo vigil

PROVO — Keith Young calls his mom nearly every day to check up on her.

Young has a lot to worry about as a premed biology student at Utah Valley University. But his thoughts and prayers often wander back to Pittsburgh, where his mom is a police detective.

Not only does he think about her struggles as a single mother, but the risks that police officers face every day has become painfully real in recent days.

"I fear for her safety a lot," Young said.

On Sunday, Young prayed again, this time surrounded by about 15 other Utah County residents in a vigil to show support for those affected by a shooting in Dallas last week that left five officers dead and seven others wounded. Two civilians were also hurt. The officers were killed while monitoring a protest against police brutality, particularly toward black Americans.

But Sunday's vigil in Provo's Memorial Park was as much an expression of sympathy as it was a call for civility and unity.

"I feel like all lives should matter. We're not black. We're not white. We're not yellow. We're not brown. We're Americans," Young said. "I hope that people wake up and come together more. I hope people don't act in violence."

Andrew Caruso is in the application process for becoming a police officer after finishing a criminal justice degree at Utah Valley University. He decided to organize the vigil after feeling a sense of "overwhelming compassion" and need for vocal support following the shooting in Texas.

"In this instance, it's different because the police were targeted because of who they were," Caruso said. "Not to mention the fact that they were protecting protesters who were protesting them."

Vigil participants cupped their hands around candles during a moment of silence and while offering thoughts about how law enforcement officers contribute to community well-being. Behind them, flags representing the United States, Utah and community organizations flew at half-staff.

Julia Currey, who attended the vigil, recently went through the Provo Police Citizen's Academy to get a better sense of how law enforcement agencies operate and how officers are trained. She said the course helped her recognize the difficulty they deal with of having to make split-second decisions to protect themselves and others.

"We're all human, and yes, we all have to be accountable for our actions. But until you've walked a mile in their shoes, until you're in that instant of 'what do I do now,' it's hard" to make an informed judgement call, she said. "The less we judge and the more we listen to understand, I think better choices will be made."

The vigil came in contrast to two protests held Saturday in Salt Lake City, where hundreds gathered to demand more transparency to the public regarding local officer-involved shootings. Protestors also called for selective hiring policies, improved police training and more public oversight of law enforcement.

But Caruso said community members can show support for police while encouraging accountability.

"There is room to talk about police procedure, police use of force, police protocol, things that they just do on a daily basis," he said. "There is also room for a conversation about support for law enforcement and understanding why they do some of the things that they do.

"I think the constructive step forward is to do away with the divisiveness."

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MorganEJacobsen