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Holladay Journal

Holladay commemorates anniverary of officer's passing with week-long event

Jan 25, 2021 10:19AM ● By Zak Sonntag

Holladay Backs the Blue commemorates the five-year anniversary of officer Doug Barney’s passing. (Screenshot)

By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]

The City of Holladay held a week-long police appreciation event in commemoration of the five-year anniversary of the death of officer Doug Barney, who was fatally shot in the line of duty during a routine traffic stop just blocks from City Hall.  

Holladay Backs the Blue encouraged residents to connect with Unified Police members through an essay and coloring contest, live-streamed ride-alongs with Chief Justin Hoyal, and broadcasted a tribute video on the date of officer Barney’s passing.

The event helped boost community trust and public service morale at a time when being a police officer has never felt harder, evidenced by recent spikes in police resignations in Salt Lake City and elsewhere, bringing starkly to attention the fact that policing is an exacting and difficult job.

This makes the life and career of Doug Barney especially resonant for many in the Unified community, who reflected on Barney as a man with preternatural positivity in the face of challenges in both his professional and personal life.

“Even coming back from a long medical related illness, [he had] optimism, happiness, laughter. Every single day. When he came through those doors it was a loud, jovial comment,” said Mike Mays, a sergeant who sat next to Barney in the office, where he witnessed Barney’s relentless enthusiasm. 

Lieutenant Tyler Ackerman, a few cubicles down from Barney, saw it too, and Ackerman still shakes his head in amazement when recounting Barney’s drive.

“He was having a rough go of life at that time. And it was interesting to me because he was still the most positive and optimistic person we had in the office. Despite all of the trials he had gone through, he was the one who had the biggest smile,” Ackerman said.

Barney’s departure left a gaping hole in the Unified family. Although it’s clear the memory of his buoyancy continues to reverberate even after death, as colleagues swear they can still hear the sound of his boomingly jovial voice echoing through the halls of the Holladay precinct.

“My favorite thing I remember was how he greeted people: ‘What up, my brother?’ he’d say. That’s always how he greeted people. No matter what he was going through he always had a positive attitude,” said officer Arron Upwall.

Barney was a man with a reputation for humor and kindness whose generosity took many forms. It could be as simple as a nice comment. Or as practical as a free lunch dropped on your desk at noon. Or it might be an unconventional gift, like a drum kit. 

“Doug found out that I liked music and used to play the drums, and the very next day he shows up in his private car and it’s stuffed to the gills with a drum kit. Doug said, ‘These have just been taking up space in the garage. They’re yours.’ I still have the snare drum with a picture of Doug above it in my office,” Mays said. 

Barney was a car enthusiast, which he learned to love alongside his father with whom he spent a lot of time tinkering on engines. He’d worked at a mechanic shop before deciding he wasn’t content spending his days alone beneath the hood of the car; he wanted to engage more with people. That’s when he began police training, after which his love of cars became just another example of his openhandedness.

“Doug’s friend owned an auto shop and he would go there and work for free because it was fun. Because it was a hobby of his and he loved it. Our chief at the time, whenever he had an issue with his car, he’d call up Doug, and Doug knew exactly what to do. Even if he had to reference YouTube videos to find out how to attach this certain, specific piece to a certain model of a car. He would always brag, ‘You can figure anything out with YouTube,’” Ackerman recounted. 

Barney’s influence didn’t stop with his colleagues.

“Shortly after his death, a community member told me how much she missed Doug. Every morning before his shift Doug would stop at the convenience store and talk to everybody in the store and always made them laugh. He always had a joke of the day. The woman told me they’re going to really miss Doug. Even in the convenience store his presence was huge. That’s how Doug was when he walked into a briefing room, too. Our community recognized that,” said Sheriff Rosie Rivera.

The city’s commemoration hopes to build trust and ties between residents and the police at a time when the institution of policing is under criticism. Relations between communities and police forces across the country have eroded with the growing awareness of systemic issues in many forces in many cities across the U.S. In neighboring Cottonwood Heights, protests descended into violence last summer in response to community grievances with the controversial killing of a local youth; in Salt Lake City, officers are leaving the force faster than they can be replaced due to stresses of a job that demands more than the salaries can justify. 

Holladay Backs the Blue hopes to combat the current milieu of discontent with the institution of police and remind residents that law enforcement officers are public servants—sworn to serve. 

Barney stood as an emblem of the type of public service city leaders hope to inspire.

Colleagues depicted Barney as a man whose life was fundamentally inspired, and Officer Shane Laycock captured it touchingly when reminiscing on his first week in the service when Barney gave him some startup advice.

“The most important thing I remember about Doug’s life is that when I was first hired with UPD, he told me, ‘Look, as long as you do your job correctly, and you do it with kindness and show every person you’re dealing with respect, they’ll give it back to you. That’s what’ll make you have a great career,’” Laycock recalled. “And that’s how I think Doug lived his entire life. On duty and off.”