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Salt Lake police awards honor heroic officers, civilians

SALT LAKE CITY — William Harris, of Salt Lake City, was driving when he saw a suspicious man near his friend’s market. His friend, who owned the local market, came out and told him the man had robbed him at gunpoint.

Harris took matters into his own hands, exited his vehicle and ran after the robber. He tackled the armed man and took him back to the store and waited for police to arrive. Harris also assisted police by showing them where the man had discarded his weapon. He wanted to help his friend, he said, as the owner had given him a gallon of milk on the promise that Harris could pay it back when he had sufficient funds.

Harris, along with members of the Salt Lake City Police Department and civilians with similar stories of heroism, were recognized Tuesday at the 39th annual Salt Lake City Police Awards Luncheon at the Utah State Fairpark's Grand Building. The awards luncheon, sponsored by the Salt Lake Police Foundation and the Salt Lake Rotary Club, drew 360 people and followed National Police Week.

“I could have paid it no attention, but that was a friend of mine, and my friends are really important to me,” said Harris, who was one of three recipients of the Partner in Public Safety Award.

Over 30 recognitions were given to Salt Lake City Police Department employees and civilians for increasing the safety of their community through acts of courage.

Examples included an officer talking a man out of jumping off an edge of an overpass, two officers extracting a person from a car before it became fully engulfed in flames, and others who saved the lives of civilians during medical emergencies.

Salt Lake police officer José Muñoz, who’s been employed with the department for four years, was given the Chief’s Officer of the Year award for his contributions building trust with those in the community. His efforts to build relationships in the community have led to arrests and improving the safety of the neighborhood.

“It’s something I never truly expected, so I really I appreciate everyone who recommended me for this award. It’s definitely meaningful,” said Muñoz.

He recommended that new officers in the force should constantly look for ways to better themselves and seek a mentor for guidance in their careers.

Treasa Chopp, a forensic scientist, was named the Chief’s Civilian of the Year for handling all DNA evidence in Salt Lake police's rape and sexual assault cases and playing a critical role in seeking justice for sexual assault survivors.

The Chief's Unit of the Year award was given to Property Crimes East Squad. The seven-member squad handled over 6,800 cases in 2018 and significantly reduced burglary trends. They participated in a pawn shop operation with the Utah Attorney General's Office that led to shutting down seven shops.

Among the honorees, "The Silent Table" served as a memorial for fallen Salt Lake City law enforcement officers.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who was in attendance, tearfully thanked law enforcement officers for their service.

"You are remarkable and you are the best," Biskupski said. "You will keep going and stand with one another and help us build an even better city than we have today."