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Sugar House Journal

Community Officer Carries Command Presence, Love of Textbooks into District Seven

Jun 14, 2016 08h24 ● By Bryan Scott

Detective Josh Ashdown pauses at the railing in the police station in downtown Salt Lake City. Ashdown has been part of the police force for 11 years. – Travis Barton

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

All roads lead to Sugar House. Or at least they have now for Detective Josh Ashdown. 

In March, Ashdown started his new assignment as the Community Intelligence officer for District Seven in Sugar House already attending the Sugar House Community Council Meeting on April 5 and learning as much about the area as he can. 

“It’s a really good area and I’d like to keep it that way,” Ashdown said. 

But Ashdown’s assignments didn’t begin with Sugar House nor the patrols he began his police caree r with. His first assignment was directing traffic at the age of five. 

“I think I was supposed to be a police officer,” Ashdown said. “I guess I was in the middle of the intersection trying to direct traffic, I don’t like traffic control now.” 

Ashdown’s childhood photos are littered with badges and toy guns. He would also kick robbers off the train during the Heber Creeper show. 

Even when Ashdown started the most fun job he’s ever had as a production assistant on the television show “Touched by an Angel,” he would be used as a police officer extra.  

“I never wanted to be a cop growing up but it was kind of what I was supposed to do,” Ashdown, an Ogden native, said. 

Once the show was cancelled and Ashdown was married, he decided he needed a stable job in any economy. He’s been a part of the police force for 11 years.

Before coming to the District 7 beat, Ashdown worked on different patrols, including a bike patrol, in the public relations department as well as the auto theft unit. 

“What excites me now is I like to find problems and fix them so this is a great assignment for me,” Ashdown said. 

Ashdown’s wife said if a problem exists, her husband will always try to find a solution. 

“He’s a born investigator, if you can’t find something, ask Josh,” Ashdown’s wife said. 

Amy Barry, Chair of the Sugar House Community Council, said the council is excited about the relationship with Ashdown going forward. 

“He’s impressed us with his initial work to identify repeat offenders and deal with some vacant homes that have become trouble spots,” Barry said. “We’re excited to have him join our community.” 

Ashdown said finding allies in the community who are passionate about their neighborhood has been extremely valuable. 

“I’ve already met a handful of people who are awesome up there who really care and are trying to make the place better,” Ashdown said.  

Police officers develop personal styles over the years and Ashdown has polished his. He likes to make jokes and doesn’t describe himself as an intimidator, but maintains the proper “command presence.”

“You can be in charge of a scene without appearing like you’re trying to intimidate them and I’m at that stage where I can take control of my scene, take control of my call, deal with the people but I can be human still,” Ashdown said. 

“You can’t always make everyone happy especially where the law is involved, but Josh tries really hard to look at every avenue to see what resources can be used to accommodate or solve the problem,” Ashdown’s wife, a former dispatcher, said. 

It’s a demeanor that Ashdown said has served him well and is important today with the way officer to citizen relations have been portrayed across the nation.

Ashdown has received multiple letters from citizens thanking him for his kindness which appears almost rare with raised tensions over the past few years involving perceived police brutality. 

“We’ll have people throw nails in front of our tires or put food under our door handles or spit at our cars at a stoplight so it’s nice to know some people have had a positive encounter with me,” Ashdown said. 

Especially when Ashdown’s favorite part of the job is meeting new people. 

“Even if it’s a bad situation you’re going to, like a domestic, if you try to show some compassion, you can build a connection with people even on a bad call,” Ashdown said. 

Possibly the most important lesson during Ashdown’s 10 years in the department is that ignorance is bliss. 

“I was a lot more happy and personable when I didn’t see the other side of humanity,” Ashdown said. “Ignorance is bliss and I didn’t’ know that meant anything until I started doing this job.” 

Outside of protecting and serving, Ashdown said his first two loves are his family and photography. 

“If I had a free day to do whatever I wanted, I would go take pictures, besides my family, photography is my number one love in the whole world,” Ashdown said. 

Besides weddings, newborns and family photos with little kids, Ashdown can take a good photograph of anything. But photography doesn’t include his other two hobbies: art history and textbook collecting. 

Ashdown’s wife said Josh is fairly knowledgable on art history which makes trips like the one they took to the National Galleries in Washington DC even more enjoyable. 

“[Josh] told me back stories and facts about the painters which makes you appreciate them that much more in this digital art age,” Ashdown’s wife said. 

“I’m kind of a nerd, I like art history so I’ll be in people’s houses on domestic disputes and I’ll be like ‘oh that’s a reprint of an Albert Bierstadt,’” Ashdown said. 

Ashdown said he enjoys collecting textbooks and regularly stops at Deseret Industries looking for cheap textbooks. He doesn’t know how many he has exactly but there’s at least 200 hundred in boxes at his house.  

“It’s more of an addiction, but one that I don’t mind,” Ashdown’s wife said. “He is an insatiable learner…if he has a question about something, he goes and finds out everything he can about it.” 

“I don’t hunt, I don’t collect guns, I don’t do the typical cop things I guess,” Ashdown said. “I take pictures and collect textbooks, yeah I’m a weirdo.”