After over three decades of service, Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Lee Perry officially retired on Tuesday.
“It’s more than half of my life,” Perry said. “It’s almost a daze.”
One one hand, Perry said he feels he has accomplished something great. On the other hand, he’s looking forward to finding something new. For the past nine years, Perry has been serving on the state legislature; he said he plans to put “100 percent” of his focus there in retirement.
“I have the legislative session to look forward to,” Perry said. “I don’t get to just sit home and sit on the porch in the rocking chair — I will be focusing on serving on the state legislature.”
Perry began his career as a state trooper. He then worked security for former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt for three years. After five years in investigations and a span as sergeant over public information, he spent 14 years in 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.”
Looking back on his 31-year career many positives experiences stand out, but he said working in public information, “Shop With A Cop” and his work with the Special Olympics law enforcement torch run stand out the most.
“Those are some of the neatest Utahns and citizens in the world,” Perry said about working with the Special Olympics. “To see their efforts and what they do to accomplish the things they do — how wonderful.”
Perry said the hardest parts of his career were the deaths of two troopers — Aaron Beesley in 2012 and Eric Ellsworth in 2016. Perry said he stays in contact frequently with the troopers’ families and helps in the ways he can.
“As their supervisor, I felt a certain level of responsibility for what occurred,” Perry said. “I’ve had to think, you know, what can I do to never allow that to happen again to anyone else.”
When he started his career, Perry said officers didn’t have access to peer counseling. Perry said it’s difficult to sustain a career in law enforcement, not only because of the physical requirements but the mental and emotional demands, as well.
“If you went to see a psychiatrist, you were done,” Perry said of the way things used to be. “Pretty much everybody figured you were done with your career because, ‘You’re not stable, you can’t do this job.’”
He said law enforcement has learned that is not the case. Actually, Perry said it’s a way to preserve 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.”
His secret to a 31-year career, Perry said, is largely the support of his wife.
“I have the most wonderful wife and family in the world,” Perry said.
Perry likens the day-to-day activity of law enforcement officers to a traffic light. Green is relaxed, red is responding to something serious, but yellow is where officers spend the majority of their time — never fully at ease and anticipating the best way to respond.
“Most days, I operate in yellow,” Perry said. “I don’t get to come home and say, ‘OK, I’m going to green. I don’t have to worry about anything,’ because I carry a cellphone and as a supervisor I’m subject to call anytime.”
Perry said retirement will allow him to “go to green.” Deep down, Perry said he’ll continue to love law enforcement and always consider himself part of the brotherhood. Though he won’t be involved in the day-to-day, he said he will help in any way that he can.
“I love the job. I love what I’ve done and love being part of it. And somewhere deep down inside it will always be part of me,” Perry said. “I’ll be the biggest cheerleader for the Utah Highway Patrol and for law enforcement in the state of Utah, I’m sure.”