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Legislative Notes: Highway patrol signs to honor memory of fallen officers
by Rep. Brad Wilson
Mar 03, 2012 | 2287 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rep. Brad Wilson
Rep. Brad Wilson
For many years the State of Utah had honored Highway Patrol Officers (UHP) that died in the line of duty with memorial crosses. You might have noticed the large white crosses with the beehive symbol alongside the highways in your travels around the State. In 2005 American Atheists Inc. sued the Utah Highway Patrol Association over the memorial crosses that had been placed on public property.

Last year, an appeals court ultimately ruled the crosses were an unconstitutional display of religious imagery and forced the Utah Highway Patrol Association to take down the crosses on public land (though some placed on private land remain).

Early in the session, I was contacted by a constituent from Syracuse, UHP Sgt. Troy Denney. Sgt. Denney had an idea about how to reconcile the memorials to the fallen officers with the requirements of the court ruling.

That idea became HB 182 Signage Honoring Fallen Highway Patrol Officers, which I am honored to sponsor. This bill offers an alternative way to honor the memory of our fallen officers by turning the crosses into new memorials that also encourage driver safety. The bill passed the House unanimously last week and now moves onto the Senate for their consideration.

In 2011, 21 UHP troopers had their vehicle hit while on-duty protecting us on Utah’s highways. These signs will not only serve as a memorial, but also as reminders to drive safely. Under the bill, the Utah Department of Transportation will work in conjunction with the Department of Public Safety to determine the location for the signs near areas where troopers have lost their lives.

The new sign designs will resemble speed limit signs with a blue memorial section for the fallen trooper’s name. The signs will carry messages like “Buckle-Up” or “Slow Down, Move Over, It’s the Law” without any religious iconography.

I am so grateful to Sgt. Denney for offering this fantastic idea and allowing me to play a part in the process.

These memorials are important to the troopers and the families of the fallen, but they will also be an important reminder to the general public to keep in the sacrifices of our public safety personnel. The officers are not forgotten, and we will soon have a new way to honor their memory.

Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is writing a series of articles during the annual legislative session about the happenings on Capitol Hill.

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