Humans of the U: Suzanne Williams

“When I was in my early 20s, I went on a ride-along with a friend who worked for the Utah Highway Patrol. He enjoyed his job, and I could see the positive impact he was having on people’s lives. After that, I knew I wanted to be a police officer.

I was hired by the Salt Lake City Police Department when I was 24 years old and they sponsored me through the Police Academy. What I like the most about police work is that every day is different. When a call comes in over the radio, it could be a barking dog, a traffic accident, a burglary investigation, a robbery; it could be anything. Eventually, I started working with victims of domestic violence and then I was assigned to the Special Victims Unit. I enjoyed these assignments because I was doing my best work, and I felt like I was genuinely helping people in difficult situations.

I celebrated 24 years with the Salt Lake City Police Department last February and, by that time, I had worked all the assignments I wanted to and I was thinking of retiring from law enforcement. I was contacted by Lt. Whalin with the University of Utah Department of Public Safety. He let me know the U was looking for an officer who had experience with interpersonal violence, domestic violence, sex crimes and child abuse investigations. The university offered me a chance to stay in law enforcement and work with victims of interpersonal violence.

I came to the U in May and I was worried about starting over with a different police agency after spending 24 years at the same place. The officers at the university have been great. Very kind and welcoming. They want to learn from my experiences, and I have been excited to learn from them.

Under Utah law, domestic violence includes disputes between anyone who lives together, which brings an interesting dynamic to the students who live together on and off-campus. Throughout my career, I have found that interpersonal violence can happen to anyone. I want people to know if you are a victim of domestic violence, it is nothing to be ashamed of. It does not define who you are.

I feel like I am making a difference here at the U. In my short time here, I have had the opportunity to help victims of stalking, harassment and domestic violence. I have also been encouraged to share my experience with other officers and to engage in ongoing trainings, which have included trauma-informed interviewing, domestic violence and the Lethality Assessment Program.

I want students, faculty and staff to know Campus Police are here as a resource. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable making a police report, we still want them to contact us so we can direct them to the help they need. There are so many resources on campus—OEO/Title IX, victim-survivor advocates, counseling. We want people to reach out to us so we can offer resources and referrals to keep them safe.”

—Suzanne Williams, interpersonal violence specialist, University of Utah Department of Public Safety

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.