Retiring director made many changes

OREM -- Thirty-five years ago, when Mike Larsen become a police officer for Orem, he never imagined being the director of the Department of Public Safety. Now Larsen is retiring after nearly 16 years in that position.

"I thought maybe someday I would be a captain and when the director's position opened up in 1997 I didn't think I had much of a chance, but I decided to apply and see what happened," Larsen said. "I wanted to be able to make a difference within the department and move it forward and make a difference in the way we provided service to the community."

In his time as director Larsen helped create a traffic enforcement team, a gang task force that he says has greatly reduced gang violence in Utah County and helped get funding for the countywide records management system that allows police agencies to access data from other agencies online.

Under Larsen's leadership the new Orem Department of Public Safety was built and two fire stations were remodeled.

"He was an aggressive and smart officer, and to this day he has a mind like a steel trap," said Capt. Steve Clark, who has worked most of his career with Larsen. "He spent time on the streets and understood the streets. He was a good cop, and I don't say that lightly. There are plenty of people that climb the ranks because they are good politicians, but Mike spent plenty of time in the trenches; he did what he expected his men to do, he didn't just say it, he did it."

Larsen said one of the things he is most proud of is helping build the Department of Public Safety into what it is today. He said when he took over the fire, EMS and police departments had just recently been combined to create the Department of Public Safety.

"I wanted to be able to build those relationships between police and fire to create seamless service for the community," Larsen said. "The relationships between the fire, EMS and police officers are very, very good. I will say I don't think there are many departments throughout the country that have the relationship within the emergency branches that we do."

He said that relationship means the best possible service for members of the community and a department that people want to work for.

"I started out with highway patrol knowing I wanted to work for Orem at some point in time," Sgt. Craig Martinez said. "For many years when you talked to any officers around the state, Orem was the place to be, the department was good and I think that all is a reflection on what Larsen has done for our department."

Orem city manager Bruce Chesnut said part of Larsen's success is due to his organization of the department and the staff he has built.

"I think one of the good things to Mike's credit is he has organized a great support staff around him with good leadership that will be able to carry on after he retires," Chesnut said. "He has assembled a team that is efficient and well developed to run a public safety department, and he is not afraid to try new things to make things better."

Both Chesnut and Clark said Larsen's vast knowledge will be missed when he retires. Clark said anytime they have questions about old cases, laws and current legislation, Larsen knows the answer.

Larsen said it is time for him to move on to new things. After 35 years of serving Orem he and his family are ready for the next chapter.

"Maybe it is time that somebody else can look at what we are doing with a different set of eyes and see if we can do something better," Larsen said. "Orem is a very great place and it is a very great place to work and the people that work here throughout the city are very dedicated to this community and it has been a great place to have a career."

Larsen will retire on Jan. 16. He has plans to spend more time with his family, to volunteer more and possibly do work for his church.

"We'll miss him," Clark said. "The face of the department is going and we will miss him. He has been an integral part of this place and it will take a while to rebuild after he is gone."