West Jordan names justice center after fallen officer
West Jordan Police Chief Doug Diamond speaks at the renaming and rededication ceremony of the West Jordan Justice Center to the Thomas M. Rees Justice Center. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)
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By Tori La Rue | firstname.lastname@example.org
West Jordan changed the name of the West Jordan Justice Center to the Thomas M. Rees Justice Center on Feb. 23 in memory of the city’s first fallen officer.
Lt. Travis Rees pulled a rope and watched as a black banner dropped, revealing his father’s name on the building in black capital lettering. The lieutenant followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming an officer in the West Jordan Police Department.
“This day is an honor for my family—for my own personal family and my work family,” Travis Rees said.
The elder Rees was shot in a training accident in 1986 as he and another officer were trying to demonstrate how suspects might attempt to take a gun away from an officer. The other officer’s pinky finger caught on the trigger of Rees’ revolver, sending a .38-caliber bullet through his chest. Rees was airlifted to the hospital but died two hours later, according to his Officer Down Memorial Page.
“Anyone who has given the ultimate sacrifice to put their life on the line to protect us ought to be remembered,” West Jordan Councilman Zach Jacob said in the city council meeting where the council decided to rename the center. “They deserve all the recognition and honor that we could possibly dole out.”
The city council voted on March 9, 2016 to change the justice center name, but waited until Feb. 23, the anniversary of Rees’ death and 50th anniversary of the police department, to officially rededicate the building.
Police officers and Rees’ family and friends gathered for the ceremony and listened as Lt. Bob Shober recounted memories of who was killed on duty. Shober called Thomas Rees his mentor and best friend.
“The type of cop that Tom was, he was the type of cop that if you needed a major case solved, you wanted him to be in charge of that case, and if there was somebody that was outstanding or if you were looking for a suspect, you wanted Tom to find them,” he said.
More than just being a good cop, Shober said Thomas Rees was a good person. Shober admired the kind of father Rees was and said he wanted to create a family atmosphere like Thomas Rees had.
When Travis Rees told Shober he’d decided to become a police officer Shober said he was not surprised but said he was excited.
“I still look at Travis every day—and (my wife) says the same thing—when we see Travis, we see Tom,” Shober said. “They are spitting images. They have the same characteristics; they have the same instincts. Tom was a cop’s cop, and his son followed him.”
Shober’s words were followed by remarks from Mayor pro tem Chris McConnehey and Judge Ronald Kunz. Chief Doug Diamond closed the ceremony, and guests were invited to tour the center.
Thomas Rees’ family, the West Jordan Police Department and now the justice center will carry on Thomas Rees’ legacy. There couldn’t be a better way to commemorate West Jordan Police Department’s 50 years than to honor one of their own who sacrificed his life while serving to the community, Diamond said.
“I appreciate that we are here together as a family of human beings to honor one officer but also to honor the family and this year to honor all of our officers and all of the men and women who serve in public safety,” Diamond said through tears. “I am sure (Thomas Rees) would rather be here today without his name on this building, but he was willing to make that sacrifice for our community.”