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A story of service at the U

Police officers on the University of Utah campus take their duties very seriously. They work hard to ensure the safety of the community, and enforce the rules and regulations put in place. They are also all humans who care for the needs of others and are compassionate to their plights. These two realities came into sharp focus one hot afternoon in June.

Silia Vaitai was selling cold water to families attending high school graduation ceremonies at the Jon M. Huntsman Center that day. She had brought her two young children along and was hoping to make extra money to help make ends meet. She did not know though that in order to sell on University property she needed a permit, which she didn’t have. Officers were called to remove her from the property.

“That day was really hot. I needed extra money, so I made a poster and bought some drinks to sell.” After finding she needed a permit, she appreciated how police officers approached her. “They were very polite; they even helped me with my stuff. Those officers changed my perspective of the police, and more than ever, I admire all of them not for the sponsorship, but because of their professionalism and willingness to help their community.”

The officers who responded not only treated Vaitai with respect but also reached out to help her with her financial problems. One responding officer offered her money, and another sent money via Venmo. Once back at the public safety building, they asked other officers to donate as well and were able to raise several hundred dollars to help her.

Before this encounter, Vaitai did not know about University Police, but she says she will never forget the experience. In response to the gift, she sent a thoughtful message to the department. In her writing, she explained that part of the money was used to catch up with bills, buy new shoes for the kids, and register for a permit to sell cold drinks legally.

Interim Chief Safety Officer Keith Squires said the actions of the officers are representative of the caring individuals of University Safety. “The officers involved did not seek acknowledgment for their compassionate actions, but I’m grateful that this kind recipient of their service sent her heartfelt thank you so that we became aware,” he said. “I’m proud of our officers and the entire team. They are regularly going the extra mile to help others, and it’s nice to see it highlighted from time to time.”