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In-depth: Black police officers talk race relations in Utah

police car lights at night in city with selective focus and bokeh.

Black police officers in Utah are sharing their stories of wearing the badge and also being a person of color.

Those who spoke to KSL say they do not see much discrimination here, but know there is room for improvement in race relations.

Trooper Ivan Loftan

“I wouldn’t be in this department if I felt like it was a problem or racial issues or if people thought a different way,” said Utah Highway Patrol trooper Ivan Loftan on KSL’s Dave and Dujanovic Show recently.

Loftan is from Missouri and says he doesn’t think Utah has the same problems that other states have. He says the main job of law enforcement is to protect and serve, regardless of race and doesn’t feel like minorities are targeted more in Utah.

“If you are speeding, you get stopped. If you are drinking and driving no matter what race, you get stopped,” he said.

Lt. Saul Bailey

Lt. Saul Bailey served for 25 years in many levels of law enforcement on the local, state and federal level in Utah.

“I got asked early in my career, ‘Do you find it hard to be a Black police officer in Utah?’ You know what, my daddy had it hard. My mom had it hard. They were born in the 30s and grew up in the south,” said Bailey.

He was interviewed by his older brother Thurl Bailey on the KSL podcast, Thurl Talks.

Thurl asked Saul what he thought would help, knowing this situation from both sides.

“There’s a whole host of things and some go way beyond policing or how we police,” responded Saul Bailey. “It circles back to the American dream. But for a lot of people, the American dream seems unattainable.”

He talked about building social capital, like the officers who played basketball with him and knew his name and knew his parents’ names when he was growing up in Washington DC.

“Lots of times it’s us versus them, but it’s just us,” he said.

Ret. Deputy Chief Brian Lohrke

Recently retired deputy chief at the Unified Police Department Brian Lohrke says that the concerns about police in the US get lost in the demands to defund the police or abolish the police altogether.

“Police are expected to be marriage counselors, therapists, to deal with your kids, when there are actually professionals to do that,” he said. Lohrke says moving some money into programs would help address some of the problems that drive crime in our society.

He says Unified Police started a mental health unit to help with calls.

“So it’s not just a police response to a mental illness, they are also coming with social workers to address the real issues,” he said.

Lorhke says as a person of color in America and a retired officer, he still sees conflict and systematic problems.

“We know that police officers, and there are a lot of good ones out there, are doing their best to solve this problem, but we haven’t been able to get an answer,” he said. “Everyone wants the same thing. We want safe communities, we want equal treatment, we want civil liberties. But how do we get there?”

These men all say we can do better.

“We can always do better. We do better when we are partners with the communities we serve. And build social capital with the communities we serve,” said Bailey.

“I think we need to realize everybody is human, everybody has a heart. Sometimes people have harder days than others, we just need to spread more positivity and love instead of hate,” said Loftan.

“With the arrests I’ve made, I talk to people the way I would like to be talked to. There’s no need to be aggressive or talk down to somebody. They made a mistake, they aren’t a horrible person. That’s why we are on scene,” said Loftan.


Listen to the conversations