With the exception of a three-year stint at the old East Layton Police Department, he has worked his entire career in the Sheriff’s Office.
Illustrative of the changes that have taken place over four decades, the county had about 100,000 residents, or a bit more people than live in all of South Davis today.
East Layton was a small town of a few thousand residents with very few businesses. Like Layton then, it was a sleepy little town.
“When we did a license plate search, we had to thumb through a big book,” Cox said. That compares to virtually instantaneous information availability now, via laptops in patrol vehicles and more.
“We had aggravated assaults, burglary, shootings,” he recalled. “But our main goal was revenue,” which meant spending a lot of time on U.S. Highway 89 checking for speeders – and funds to help the cash-strapped town that was annexed to Layton little more than a decade later.
Cox’s first assignment with the Sheriff’s Office was as a dispatcher/jailer. The two roles were combined, especially at night, when there would possibly only be a handful of calls. If he had to process in an inmate, Cox would sign off dispatch, which would be covered by Bountiful, Clearfield and Layton, all with their #own dispatch centers.
“The jail had a capacity of only 30 (compared to 900 today). The women were on the north, the cafeteria in the middle, the men on the south,” Cox recalled.
Ironically, what’s left of that old jail building, most recently the former home of some health department functions, is due to be demolished next year.
The jail is now a correctional facility, with that term more than just a name in Cox’s view.
“Now it’s corrective behavior to modify behavior, for (inmates) to become more productive members of society,” he said. “I’ve embraced that philosophy. I do feel we’re making a difference.”
Today, a variety of classes, drug court, a nascent mental health court, and other programs are in place to that end – all non-existent four decades ago.
“Families get their kids back, families are reconciled, come together,” in many cases, he said. On the other hand, “There are still some people who come to jail who were there when I started, or their kids. We see others who are now successful, contributing members of society.”
The Sheriff’s Office is the largest department in county government, with about 300 full and part-time employees. There are divisions assigned to provide city-type law enforcement to the contract communities of Fruit Heights, South Weber and West Point.
Paramedic service is provided to communities from Farmington north, except for Layton.
“It’s a multi-tasking, intense” career, he said of law enforcement. “It demands ethics. Just Monday (Dec. 6) we de-certified 20 plus law enforcement people (statewide) for not doing what they were supposed to. A momentary lapse ruined 20-year careers” in many cases, he said.
“I always had a great woman support me (wife Norma). She always stood behind me,” Cox said. “I tried to surround myself with people who are intelligent, with different strengths.”
He said a sheriff needs to “be a team player, or you won’t succeed. You need to listen to your people, to be patient, consistent, and compassionate.”
Chief Deputies Roger Anderson and Bob Yeomen are also retiring in the coming weeks. With the sheriff, they bring more than 100 years of law enforcement experience.
So what will the sheriff do now? “We’ve had a travel trailer for 10 years and only used it once. My wife likes to fish and I like to read.”
Which means that, after the first of the year, maybe you’ll find them at a secluded fishing hole. He might also be taking that first cruise, or spending more time with their two daughters, seven grandchildren and families.