ST. GEORGE — An encounter with a police officer in Washington City left quite an impression on a reader who recently shared the favorable experience in an email to St. George News and went even further by describing the officer’s professional conduct to a court clerk as he paid the fine for the traffic citation he was issued that day.
On the morning of Nov. 18, Jason Record was stopped near Washington Fields Intermediate School for having expired registration tags by Washington City Police Officer Scott Ray.
Record said that he had just exited the school parking lot when he was stopped by the officer, who had observed, he learned later, that the tags on his license plate were expired well before pulling into the school that morning.
But instead of stopping him in front of the school or in the parking lot, Record said Ray waited until he was driving away from the school to stop him, indicating to him that the officer had a “heightened” sense of awareness regarding the situation by waiting to initiate the traffic stop, which prevented any embarrassment for his daughter.
He went on to say that Ray “thought about my daughter, the other kids around school and when the best time to approach me would be.”
Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams said the praise for the officer extended beyond the email sent to St. George News. In fact, Williams said he was notified by the Washington City Justice Court of the comments made to court staff as Record paid the traffic fine issued during the stop that day.
According to Record, the professionalism demonstrated by the officer was not confined to that one traffic stop either, and he explained that he observed the officer’s interaction with another driver as an uninvolved party, behavior that he called “amazing.” Moreover, he said that his son also had an encounter with Ray during a traffic stop that took place prior to Nov. 18, and he “also had a great experience with the officer.”
Record also said that in spite of any negative encounters the officer had had before stopping him, that Ray remained completely calm, polite and professional that morning.
Following his experiences, Record wrote in to St. George News to share the good side of policing, he said, and to “encourage a news investigation into awesome police officers doing a great job.”
When St. George News met with the officer at the Washington City Police Department on Thursday, Record’s efforts to commend the officer and the reasons behind them were apparent. The officer’s quiet demeanor came through as he insisted he is no different than any other officer in the department during the interview.
Ray served in the Navy for more than two decades, and when he retired, he began working as a K-9 officer with the Anacortes Police Department, located about 80 miles north of Seattle in Washington State, for a number of years and to continue using the skills he derived during his military service.
Two years ago, the officer joined the Washington City Police Department after relocating with his family to Southern Utah. He said he quickly knew there was something special about the area and the people who live here.
As an officer in Washington State, he said, the public’s attitude towards law enforcement is much different, adding “there are many states that are not as welcoming as what I’ve found here in Southern Utah.”
He went on to say that in other police departments, patrol officers encounter some type of harassment or derogatory comments during one out of every three traffic stops. In Utah, he said, it is rare to encounter such negativity while interacting with the public.
Ray also said the compliments extended by the reader have as much to do with the support the public extends to the officers in Washington City, as well as the support from the police department that stems from the leadership and the officers he serves with.
“It’s really the people here in this area that are amazing,” he said. “A majority of those I encounter are trying to do the right thing most of the time – these people care and they are trying.”
Ray keeps that in mind when he is interacting with the public, he said, and went on to say that from what he has found, many of the encounters between the police and the public generally occur during a traffic stop, and a majority of the drivers he stops have had limited interaction with police.
“Or maybe they were stopped for speeding a decade ago, for example,” he said.
As a result, the overall impression the driver is left with can last for days, years or decades, he said, so if the interaction was negative, that driver will remember that bad experience until he is stopped again, which could be “a very long time.” This is something he remembers during his shift.
He also enjoys working with the public, which is one of the reasons he was recently assigned to the traffic division. The division was recently implemented within the department to address the primary driving behaviors that lead to crashes. He also knows it is the seemingly minor issues that typically contribute to crashes, and even deadly crashes, so improving driver behavior is paramount in traffic safety.
In reference to the traffic stop that took place near the school, Ray said he didn’t give it much thought that day, but he knew the driver may have been running late to get his child to school. Ray said he has children too and knows the embarrassment that can accompany a parent being stopped in front of a school.
It is the teamwork and camaraderie that comes from the job that keeps him going and is the reason he has yet to retire, he said, adding that in the end, the attributes as outlined in the email could be attributed to any one of the officers he serves with.
According to Chief Williams, prior military service within the ranks is recognized at the Washington City Police Department by special badges that were implemented shortly after Williams began leading the department. The badges include the branch of the military the officer served in. Those details are also noted on the badge worn by Ray.
Williams later said that while Ray briefly went over his military service during the interview, in all actuality, Ray had a remarkable service record and retired as a highly-decorated naval officer.
According to Record, the officer deserves “a public pat on the back” for the outstanding job he does for the citizens of Washington City.
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