For Heber City Police Chief, Dave Booth, life has always been fueled by an internal drive to serve. When it comes to serving his community, it’s always been about leading with heart.
Heber City Police Chief, Dave Booth, has called Wasatch County his backyard since childhood. He spent many summers on a boat cruising Strawberry Lake. But one cruise in particular would change everything. A mentor of his, who worked for the Orem Police Department, invited Booth to go on a different type of ride — a ride along in a police car as an observer of a day in the life of a police officer. Booth was hooked!
When it came time to choose a career Dave Booth chose law enforcement. Since that day he’s had “a lot of mentors along the way; from the academy to field training.” Chief Booth loves his job and the people he serves. “I enjoy that it’s different every day, the camaraderie, as well as interacting with people and providing solutions to difficult situations.” Booth credits part of his ‘job training’ to his two years as a missionary for his church in Chicago. This experience provided him with a better understanding of people and broadened his perspective.
Booth has had many roles during his time on the force, but always in rural law enforcement. Rural areas tend to be a bit more exciting and diverse; receiving calls about anything from traffic to gang-related activity to moose on the move. Booth feels rural officers have the opportunity to handle a variety of concerns as opposed to law enforcement in more populated areas who may have dedicated task forces for each specific issue.
Chief Booth has had a lot of experience throughout his years on the force. He’s worked in narcotics, gang prevention, SWAT, and as a School Resource Officer, front line supervisor, Patrol Officer, and Deputy Chief of Summit County Sheriff’s office before becoming Chief of Police for Heber City eight years ago. His favorite roles have been working with youth in the community, which is reflected in the multiple programs Booth has established in Wasatch County.
Two of his youth-centric programs are VIPS (Volunteers in Police Services) and Peer Court; Booth established both in 2015. VIPS serves as a way for teens who are interested in careers in law enforcement to become familiar with the police department. Booth is proud to say that several of his current full-time officers started in the VIPS program, which serves as a preparatory step and a gateway to the police academy.
Peer Court is an alternative to juvenile court, giving first-time minor offenders a second chance. After completing Peer Court and the assigned consequences, charges against the offender are dropped, so the offender’s permanent record is not affected. Peer Court offers a different route rather than the school to prison pipeline for troubled youths.
Peer court is made up of five local youths: three judges, a bailiff, and a clerk. The court also has as an adult advisor; however, the peer court makes the final decisions. Members are selected by invitation only. Schools select nominees, and the police department chooses which of those nominees will serve on the court. Currently, there are forty members of Peer Court. Judges are the same age as those appearing in court, ensuring that it truly is a court made up of peers.
“Being heard by other youth, rather than an adult judge looking down their glasses at you, provides a better outcome, and we have very very few repeat offenders,” says Booth. He also reports many success stories, where former offenders have become judges or have served on the court. All ‘sentences’ given by the peer court include community service time along with courses to help prevent repeat offenses. There are a number of corresponding courses, like cessation courses for substance abuse offenses or anger management classes for violent acts. Peer Court has partnered with the Health Department, which offers these programs at no cost.
Perhaps one of the most integral benefits of the Peer Court program is the friendships created. Those in the program are exposed to, and form relationships with the court members, which leads, potentially, to a new friend group and better influences. Peer Court is modeled after a program Booth administered as a School Resource Officer, the Diversion Program, with one significant difference — it was run entirely by adults. When Booth decided to revive the program here, the idea of Peer Court was suggested by a current Resource Officer and put into action. Currently the program is only in a few states, but Booth hopes that its positive results encourage other police departments around the nation to participate.
While he may not be able to choose what goes on nationwide, Chief Booth works hard and gives his heart and soul to serving our valley. He shares, “Heber Police Department really cares about our community. We love our community, and its citizens. I require all of our officers to live within Heber; because when you live in the community, you serve, you find better solutions to problems. We want to help. We have always strived to help and serve this community. My goal is to maintain and to continue to grow that relationship.”
With that goal in mind, Booth has added two new programs to help improve the wellbeing of Wasatch County; the Think Crime Prevention Program (TCP) and Watching Our Neighborhoods program (WON). TCP offers citizens the opportunity to have members of the police department come to their home or property to check for potential weak spots in their property’s security. Booth gave examples of putting thorny bushes beneath ground floor bathroom windows or ensuring garage doors seal properly. The WON program allows officers to communicate, via WON cards, with the community about potential problems, like bikes left out overnight, possibly being stolen. Regarding these programs, the chief remarks, “We try to go out of our way to be proactive when it comes to protecting our neighbors.”
For Chief Booth, everything he does is all about leading with heart and protecting Wasatch County — the backyard that he loves.