Orem public safety spokesman retires after 30-year career
Michael Rigert - DAILY HERALD
OREM -- It's a sad day for those who monitor and, with great anticipation, look forward to reading the latest police blotter entries from the Orem Police Division on the city Web site.
Lt. Doug Edwards, the spokesman for the Orem Department of Public Safety and the author of those colorful and often humorous tales of bumbling criminals, hung up his gun and badge last week after 30 years on the force.
Edwards is retiring after serving in a variety of capacities including patrolman and detective. For the past 10 years, he has been the department's public information officer.
"I've spent my whole career here," he said on Thursday, his last day. "It's been a blessing and a pure pleasure."
Orem City Councilwoman Karen McCandless admits being a fan of Edwards's police briefs that often were akin to a love child of the comedy films "Dumb & Dumber" and "Home Alone." She has family members who don't live in Orem who have relished over the years going online to see Edwards's latest postings about the city's criminal elements doing themselves in with their own stupidity.
"I think there's a real following out there that Doug doesn't know about," McCandless said.
An Orem native who graduated as an Orem High School Tiger and attended both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University, Edwards said it was almost an accident that he even got into law enforcement.
A business student at the time, many years ago, he remembers traipsing through the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU one day, and stopping to check out a Provo police SWAT team display. Then-Provo police Chief Swen Nielsen told him though he had to be a resident to be a Provo police cadet, Orem had a similar program.
"I tested with 100 other guys. ... Even though I fully intended to go into retail sales," Edwards said. "When a full-time position came up, I snatched it."
Over the years, he's enjoyed the association and camaraderie he's shared with other Orem police officers and firefighters, something he said likely approximates something of what soldiers feel on the battlefield and in the foxhole. And though he felt a strong sense of solidarity with his co-workers, Edwards said he appreciated the advice he got from a seasoned trainer as a rookie cop to maintain a circle of friends outside the department.
"To avoid the tendency that some have in the profession to become cynical," leading to some officers' mistaken belief that the only type of person they can confide in and trust "is another person in a blue uniform," he said. "That was good advice I took to heart. That's given me a real balance in my perspective."
His experiences in law enforcement also have helped him be a better father. He said violence, drugs and gangs are a much greater problem and influence on youth than they were three decades ago. Edwards has three sons and one daughter, who are now grown.
"[It] helped to shape and mold my children," he said. "I was able to share firsthand the things to help them avoid pitfalls."
At one point as an Orem police officer, Edwards received firefighter cross-training during an exercise in which a building filled with tires and hay was set afire. He suffered a minor burn, something he said was much more frightening and foreign to him than being confronted as a cop by a person pointing a gun at him.
"I have a real sense of respect for firefighters and what they do," he said, recalling the aluminum framing of the building melting into a puddle on the floor.
Chief Mike Larsen, Orem's director of public safety, said he and Edwards have come up through the department together as Orem patrolmen and detectives for 30 years. In every position, Larsen said, Edwards has distinguished himself and well-represented the department and the city.
On many assignments and projects, Edwards reported directly to him, and the two were almost always on the same wavelength.
"He had a knack of knowing what's needed and when it's needed without having to ask," Larsen said. "He's been a great asset to this department."
Taking over Edwards's position is Orem police Lt. Gary Downey, a veteran of the department for more than 25 years, Larsen said.
Though he'll have to get new work eventually, Edwards said he looks forward to taking the summer off and enjoying the freedom of spending time with his wife, Lori, and their family.
"It's like, 'It's Wednesday, let's spend the day in Salt Lake, or go to Yellowstone,' " he said. "Maybe we'll stay an extra day or two in Yellowstone."
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