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Utah lawmaker retiring from highway patrol after 31 years

January 5, 2020 GMT
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FILE - In this March 7, 2017, file photo, Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, speaks on the House floor, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. After three decades with the Utah Highway Patrol, Lt. Lee Perry has retired to devote all his energy to being a state legislator. He says he's encouraged by how law enforcement in that time has embraced of counseling to help officers handle the emotional toll of the job, the Herald-Journal in Logan reports. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
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FILE - In this March 7, 2017, file photo, Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, speaks on the House floor, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. After three decades with the Utah Highway Patrol, Lt. Lee Perry has retired to devote all his energy to being a state legislator. He says he's encouraged by how law enforcement in that time has embraced of counseling to help officers handle the emotional toll of the job, the Herald-Journal in Logan reports. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

LOGAN, Utah (AP) — A Utah highway patrol lieutenant and state lawmaker has retired from his law enforcement job after 31 years.

Lee Perry told the Logan Herald Journal that he’s seen some good changes in police work during his career. When he started as a trooper, for example, officers couldn’t go to counseling to help deal with the mental and emotional demands of the job.

“If you went to see a psychiatrist, you were done,” Perry said. “Pretty much everybody figured you were done with your career because, ‘You’re not stable, you can’t do this job.’”

Over the years, though, the law enforcement community has learned that services such as peer counseling are key to preserving careers.

“It’s OK to go see somebody and talk to somebody,” Perry said. “And that’s to our benefit in law enforcement, as far as I’m concerned.”

Perry, a Republican, was elected as a representative to the state Legislature nine years ago serving the town of Perry and surrounding communities in far northern Utah, and now plans to focus on legislative work full time.

Perry started with the highway patrol as a state trooper and worked security for former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt for three years before changing to investigations and public information. For the last 14 years, he’s held what he called his “dream job” as the lieutenant of the highway patrol in Brigham City

“I was back home,” Perry said, “and I could help serve the people that helped raise me.”

The most difficult parts were the deaths of two troopers, Aaron Beesley in 2012 and Eric Ellsworth in 2016. He still tries to help their families when he can.

“I’ve had to think, you know, what can I do to never allow that to happen again to anyone else,” he said.

Even as he heads into retirement, he said he’ll still work to help strengthen law enforcement in Utah.

“I love the job,” he said. “And somewhere deep down inside it will always be part of me.”