For the fifth time, the Fallen Peace Officer Trail north of Moab will host a commemorative off-highway vehicle ride honoring Utah law enforcement officers killed or injured in the line of duty. This year’s ride will take place Saturday, Apr. 22, following a families-only ride the day before.
Each year, the Utah Peace Officers Association selects 14 individuals to highlight at the ride, ranging from recently deceased officers to those who died over a century ago in the state’s early days. Temporary mile markers along the 14-mile trail will bear those officers’ names. Proceeds from the event fund scholarships for the family members of the officers, as well as for officers who are recovering from duty-related injuries.
Del Schlosser, Iron County Sheriff’s Lieutenant and the event organizer, said the association aims to honor a broad swath of the state’s officers.
“We try to locate not just officers from one area, but officers from throughout the entire state to make that selection,” Schlosser said.
Among this year’s honorees are Barney Douglas of the Unified Police Department, who was fatally shot by a suspect in January 2016; Charles P. Illsley of the West Valley Police Department, who died in 2014 as a result of exposure earlier in his career to the toxic chemicals used in methamphetamine laboratories; and Samuel F. Jenkins, a Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy killed by cattle rustlers in 1900. (A full list of the honorees is available at upoa.org.)
Schlosser said the selection committee prioritizes including at least one officer each year whose death was caused by meth lab exposure. Such deaths do not meet the current criteria for inclusion in the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial.
“We feel as an organization that it’s important to recognize those officers,” Schlosser explained. “There’s a lot of research that’s been done to show that this is a duty-related illness.”
Historical selections are made with the help of the memorial’s archives and its vice-president, Salt Lake Tribune columnist and historian Robert Kirby.
This year’s event begins with the families-only ride on Friday afternoon — “They can go back out on Saturday, but we do designate that time for them,” Schlosser said— and opens for all participants with a ceremony remembering the officers at 9 a.m. Saturday, in the Old Spanish Trail Arena. The first wave of motorcycle and ATV riders will take to the trail at 11 a.m., and the last wave of 4×4 drivers are scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.
Last year’s ride drew approximately 500 people, Schlosser said.
The Utah Peace Officers Association dedicated the trail in 2012, and held the first of the now-annual rides in 2013. The original idea for the trail came from Ride with Respect, a Moab-based motorcycling advocacy group which approached Utah State Parks law enforcement ranger Brody Young after Young was shot nine times while on duty in Moab in November 2010.
“They wanted to create this trail, and they were trying to name it after me,” Young recalled, “but trails are named after dead people, and I’m not dead yet.”
From that initial concept, the notion of honoring all of Utah’s fallen officers evolved. Young, still a law enforcement ranger and now the Assistant Boating Program Manager for the parks, continues to help organize the annual rides.
“It’s the fifth year, which is pretty amazing to think about,” he said. “We’ve given out a dozen or more scholarships of 2010 dollars, for the year 2010. These kids are relatives of those who died in the line of duty.”
Tony White, a Utah State Parks Lieutenant who was one of the founders of the ride, emphasized that the event is made possible by partnerships and collaboration.
“It’s really just been this great cooperative effort between Ride with Respect and Utah State Parks and the Utah Peace Officers Association to bring this event together,” White said.
He also praised the Moab City Police Department, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, the Utah Highway Patrol and Classic Air Medical for their assistance.
“The four of them, as local resources for us, are just huge in the mix,” White said. “They’re a huge asset. Without that local influence from those guys, we would not be able to do this event.”
White is excited by the growth the event has seen, though he noted that increasing numbers do require the organizers to think carefully about the possible impact on the land.
“We’re not at a point that we need to cap the number of riders yet, but we’re trying to be conscientious about the environmental impact we have,” he said.
For now, he’s looking forward to the ride. If the day’s logistics don’t keep him too busy, he’ll be out on the trail himself.
“If there’s things that need (to be) done, often we as founders will step out,” he said. “I will ride the trail with the groups if (I can).”
They wanted to create this trail, and they were trying to name it after me, but trails are named after dead people, and I’m not dead yet.
Fifth annual event funds scholarships for officers’ families
What: Fallen Peace Officer Trail Ride
When: Saturday, April 22, at 11 a.m.; registration and packet pick-up on Friday, April 22, at the Big Horn Lodge, followed by pre-ride program on April 22 at 9 a.m. at the Old Spanish Trail Arena
Where: Fallen Peace Officer Trail
Cost: Varies; the online registration period has closed