SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) He ran a tire store in Las Vegas. Then, after 9-11 decided to become a police officer. Today, he says he is back to being the car guy - sort of. But he has added something new. He reaches out to families of fallen officers across the country in a unique way. Here's this weeks Behind the Badge report.
"This is going to Herriman as a patrol truck." If you want to know about Unified Police vehicles - Officer Keith Larsen is the guy to see. "You'd basically have to tear this hatch off to get under it." As the Fleet Manager at UPD he oversees about 630 vehicles. "So were adding on the push bumper, all the lights. The lights inside."
Ironically, the 45-year-old says being in charge of the cars was actually his job before he became an officer. "I started working for a tire company and I did real well there and became a manager down in Nevada."
But Larsen says after 9-11 he wanted to more. "I thought there had to be something better to do for my community. I wanted to be a police officer when I was young - my teenage years." So, he packed up and moved back to Utah. He became a patrol officer and worked for Salt Lake County and Unified Police for more than a decade.
Then about a year and half go - he was made the UPD Fleet Manager. "And now I am back dealing with cars again." That means he helps transform cars, trucks and suvs into police vehicles. He keeps them running. "We got to have these cars last us so were very good about getting our people in for preventative maintenance." He deals with the bumps, bruises and minor and major dents. "The car did exactly what it was supposed to do. You look inside - the engine pushed the dashboard back, the dashboard pushed the floorboard. The floorboard is all rippled."
But when Officer Larsen is not at work he does something even more impressive. "I cut into a bundle of 50. Each bundle I cut a different length." "Then I hand stain - this is all stained. Then I assemble it."
Officer Larsen makes wood American Flags for fallen officers. "If you have ever been to an officer's funeral it will hit you pretty hard. And if it hits you that hard, imagine what the family is going through. So, if I can ease it a little bit by sending one of those - that's one of the reasons." In his shop at home - he creates these commemorative flags. Then ships them to the families - not just in Utah, but across the country. "If that thing is hanging on the wall in the office or their home and someone walks through the door and sees it - they are going to remember that person."
Officer Larsen makes and mails about two to three flags per week. "I include a little note in there - why I am sending it to that individual." And often he gets notes back from the families of the officers. He shared one with us from the father of a fallen officer in Detroit "..that you cared enough to extend comfort to us during this difficult time in our lives means so much." He says "that makes it all worthwhile. Cause their hurt. That family is hurting." "When you get notes like that where they are hurting pretty bad - it keeps you going."
Officer Larsen started his Flags for the Fallen effort almost two years ago, but then he had a bout with kidney cancer. After he recovered he felt like he was given a second chance so he devoting more time and money to making more flags. And he now has the help of Vehicle Lighting Solutions to get them shipped. For a link to Larsen's Flags for the Fallen page, to see past behind the badge stories and to nominate someone for a future story go to: http://www.good4utah.com/badge
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