Last Tuesday morning I found myself in the middle of one of what will probably the most remembered news event in Carbon County this year: the bank robbery at Wells Fargo in Helper.
I had been in the town earlier in the day and had just arrived at my office when I heard the call over the scanner. In the course of a month we often hear false alarms about robberies on the scanner, usually because someone hit the wrong button behind a bank or credit union counter and set off the alarm. From the beginning I knew this was different. The report had come in as a 911 call.
I jumped in my car, got on the bypass road and headed back to Helper. Of course when I am in a hurry I seem to get behind every slow driver in the county, but in this case I found myself with a wide open road. Far behind me I could see the flashing red lights of police cars coming up quickly despite my slightly right on the speed limit motion. I moved over into the right lane and two highway patrolmen passed me at quite a clip.
When I arrived in Helper I saw one of the cars that had passed me just off the freeway, about at the middle of the parkway. The other one was at the Helper exit. The patrolmen were watching the parkway for anything they could see.
As I pulled near the outdoor equpment display behind the Western Mining and Railroad Museum, I saw Price police cruisers and county sheriff vehicles parked by each other in the parking lot. I pulled over there and saw one Price officer armed with a shotgun and a county sheriff deputy with an M-16. I have to admit, I was nervous with those big guns out, because I usually encounter these guys at accident scenes or somewhere around town doing something much more tame.
I talked with them for a minute and then walked down the street where some Adult Probation and Parole officers had pulled up. Across the street at the bank were Helper Police personnel.
Soon the dogs showed up, and as I walked nearby taking photos, they began their search of the parkway. In the group that was searching along that asphalt path behind Claudio, the Utah Highway Patrol's search and drug dog, were personnel from almost every law enforcement agency that I could think of existed in the county.
This is the way it should be, and we are lucky, because in many places in this state police agencies work only in their own interest and not in that of the citizens. In doing so, they seldom work together, have little in common, and in fact, fight each other (figuratively, not literally, for the most part).
The interesting thing is that no matter the rank, no matter which force they came from and no matter what they were asked to do they all seemed to know their duty, and they cooperated with each other. I saw ranking police officials working right along side fresh faced patrolmen. And often they weren't from the same agency. That says a lot for the police forces in this county.
I know that over the years it hasn't always been this way, even though I never directly witnessed any problems myselt. It has obviously taken a lot of hard work and determination to make this happen. But in the case of Tuesday's crisis, I could see these guys knew what they were doing, and that they had done a lot of cross training to make the problem much less about interagency "empire" disputes and more about catching the bad guys.
Though few of us knew it at the time, within an hour the authorities had suspects in custody and were already moving to recover the stolen money. I realize that this was not a complicated robbery and it appears the suspect was not really armed at all, but no one knew this when they came to the scene of the crime.
From my point of view, the whole operation was a compliment to our local law enforcement agencies operations and organization.