With numerous agents watching the rear windows of the apartment building — including one with a K-9 ready to deploy — and several more on each side of the building, an agent with Adult Probation and Parole makes his presence known.

"Come to the door," the agent orders using a megaphone after pounding on the door and announcing that police are present.

After several unsuccessful attempts to get someone to answer, the agents in this case have authorization to forcefully enter. They breach the door and quickly enter, the lead person holding a ballistics shield as an agent armed with a rifle follows.

In the apartment, they find the person they're looking for simply standing in the room. He quickly surrenders without incident.

He's one of several wanted people who were arrested Thursday by members of the Adult Probation and Parole Fugitive Response Team.

This past week, the Utah Department of Corrections hosted Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week in an effort to show the public how community supervision works.

Brian Redd, Utah Department of Corrections executive director, works in the field as Adult Parole and Probation agents take a probation fugitive into custody in South Salt Lake on Thursday.
Brian Redd, Utah Department of Corrections executive director, works in the field as Adult Parole and Probation agents take a probation fugitive into custody in South Salt Lake on Thursday. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Department of Correction's Division of Adult Probation and Parole has taken several public relations hits over the past few months. In November, a state audit concluded that the division lacked the staff to adequately supervise and screen sex offenders and offenders with mental illnesses.

Then in May, nearly a dozen people — representing victims in six separate violent crimes — filed a civil lawsuit claiming serious violent acts were committed against them or their loved ones because of the "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct" of the Utah Department of Corrections and Adult Probation and Parole.

The day after the lawsuit was filed, Corrections Executive Director Brian Neilson announced his retirement. Brian Redd, who served 21 years with the Utah Department of Public Safety, was picked by Gov. Spencer Cox to fill the position.

This past week, the Department of Corrections, "recognizing that there has been an increased interest from the general public, legislators, and local media regarding how the Utah Department of Corrections supervises individuals on probation and parole," offered members of the media and legislators the chance to see firsthand what Adult Probation and Parole agents do. They were invited to watch agents make field visits with parolees and probationers, observe a simulation showing what it's like for people transitioning from prison back into the community, and ride along on a fugitive operation.

The fugitive task force goes out about once a month to look for people who have either absconded from their parole or who have new warrants out for their arrest issued by either the courts or the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. The days and times the group goes out are different each time.

Adult Probation and Parole agents take a fugitive into custody in South Salt Lake on Thursday, July 20, 2023. Agents said the man was on probation for a second degree felony threat and third degree felony aggravated assault with domestic violence enhancement. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The operation starts with a meeting at Adult Probation and Parole's headquarters in Salt Lake City where agents get an overview of who they will be looking for. It's also a chance for case agents to share the latest information they have on where a fugitive was last seen or where they may be staying.

On Thursday, as the task force reviewed its list of 30 wanted fugitives, one agent noted that the person they were looking for had recently made a social media post while displaying guns. Another cautioned that the person he was looking for is a man who tried to hide the last time agents went looking for him. That man was about to jump out a window when he was was stopped and arrested. Another fugitive was listed on the Metro Gang Unit's top 10 list. Another was wanted on new allegations of kidnapping and assault. Agents warned that another wanted fugitive had multiple knives on him the last time he was arrested.

Adult Probation and Parole Regional Chief Amee Griffiths tells the group she appreciates the quality of cases that the agents have been bringing as of late and the hard work they've put in to capture them.

Corrections Deputy Executive Director James Hudspeth reminds agents to continue treating the people who will be arrested with kindness.

"We do our job but we treat people with respect," he said, "You represent yourselves well all the time."

Other reminders and words of encouragement are given, such as, "Go fast, be deliberate," and "Be safe."

"We all go home at the end of the day," Hudspeth said.

The agents then load up their vehicles, put on their ballistic vests, and break up into two groups to look for fugitives.

On this roundup, Redd is riding along with the agents to see how their operation works, and to also listen to whatever issues or concerns they may have and how they think Adult Probation and Parole could be improved.

There are about 11,400 people on probation in Utah and just over 3,900 on parole. Just under 700 people work with Adult Probation and Parole. Agents typically have case loads of 50 to 60 people to supervise. As of July 1, the department had 13 AP&P agent vacancies to fill, in addition to new agents recently hired but waiting to complete training and certification.

An Adult Probation and Parole agent keeps watch as other AP&P agents take a probation fugitive into custody in South Salt Lake on Thursday, July 20, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

"I think that AP&P specifically is part of the criminal justice system that a lot of people may not understand," supervisor Joseph Herman told KSL.com. "We don't get to pick and choose who we supervise. People just get sent to us by either the court or the board. Within that group of people who get sent to supervision, there are some people that are willing and ready to take advantage of the resources that we have to help them turn their lives around. And there are some people who aren't.

"And no matter what we try to do, they're going to do what they want to do, regardless. And so we have people we've arrested four or five times on nights like this that just keep getting out of jail and prison and keep going back to the same thing they want to."

When asked if it's frustrating arresting the same person four or five times, Herman conceded, "It is pretty frustrating. But sometimes, after a few times, the person gets the message. Overall, we try to help them as much as we can. But for the most part, they just have to be willing to accept the help in order to take advantage of the resources that we have available."

According to Herman, one of the most common excuses agents hear for why a person absconds from parole is that they have a relapse, such as using drugs, and they get scared and decide not to check in with their case agent anymore. Herman says it's far better for a parolee to be honest and tell their agent what has happened so the parolee can be connected with the right resources rather than have the fugitive team get involved.

While there are several law enforcement task forces in the valley that do the same job, such as the U.S. Marshal's Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team, Herman says it makes the most sense for Adult Probation and Parole to go after people under their supervision.

"There's honestly a lot of fugitives. Even though there's all these other task forces in the valley that are out looking for fugitives, I think the more people we can get out there looking for them, the better. With our agents specifically, maybe they did supervise them in the past or they can go down the hallway and talk to the fugitive's agent and get more information and investigate the case that way with connection to the agent. I think that helps us to be a little more successful than if VFAST was just looking for a person that they don't have any of that information for," he said.

On this afternoon, the first person Herman's group goes after is a probation fugitive wanted for committing a new aggravated assault. Agents are briefed that the man can become "very aggressive when drunk" and that sometimes he has a dog. A short time later, however, the man is found at his apartment and is arrested without incident.

An Adult Probation and Parole agent and K-9 work with other AP&P agents to surround an apartment building and take a probation fugitive into custody in South Salt Lake on Thursday, July 20, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Not long after, another probation fugitive is also believed to be in another apartment in South Salt Lake about 15 minutes away, but no one is answering the door. The agents compose a search warrant so they can forcibly enter the apartment. Just as the warrant is submitted for a judge's approval, a police K-9 arrives on scene. As soon as the dog is heard barking, the man opens the door and surrenders without incident.

In another case Thursday, agents kept surveillance on a parole fugitive who was charged earlier that day with a new case of aggravated assault. After keeping surveillance on a residence and watching the man get into a car and drive away, agents followed the vehicle and waited for the right time to pull him over. In this incident, that man obeyed law enforcement's commands to stop and was taken into custody.

Herman says the peaceful surrenders are partly why agents surround a suspect in large numbers when doing a roundup.

"The more people we have, the more likely they are to just give up once they see all the people there. And then it's also just to be prepared in case anything goes wrong," he said.

On this night, the fugitive apprehension response team will stay out until 2 a.m. looking for fugitives.