SALT LAKE CITY — While Americans watched an insurrection January 6 in Washington, Michael Rapich paid attention to what has happening at the Utah Capitol.
“Almost simultaneous to that event [in Washington],” said Rapich, the colonel in command of the Utah Highway Patrol, “we had a significant group that showed up at our Utah State Capitol -- many of them purporting the same ideologies that was motivating the crowd back in Washington, D.C.”
Rapich has been making sure the Utah Capitol stays safe. He received assistance last week when Governor Spencer Cox issued an emergency declaration authorizing the Utah National Guard to assist UHP.
All that has come at a cost. Sunday alone, according to Rapich, the bill for extra protection is estimated to have been $227,000.
The number of personnel has declined since then, but the meter is still running. Even after Cox’s emergency declaration expires after tonight and the soldiers go home, extra troopers are expected to remain on hand until the Utah Legislature concludes its session in mid-March.
Sunday was the day groups loyal to Donald Trump were expected to protest over the false claims of election fraud. Far fewer demonstrators went to the Capitol than anticipated. Those who did were peaceful.
The security build-up might have been a reason for that.
“Probably the single biggest deployment of law enforcement resources definitely to the Utah Capitol in my career,” Rapich said.
Rapich says there were 322 peace officers at the Capitol that day. There were another few hundred soldiers for a total of about 600 personnel.
“We had seen [violence] happen at the nation’s Capitol, and so we responded appropriately,” Rapich said. “What would it take to absolutely ensure our state Capitol is safe?”
“Are we happy that we did not need those resources? Absolutely. It was a good outcome. Had it been different, we were absolutely prepared for a different outcome as well, though.”
It’s less clear what the final tally for all the extra security will be. A spokesperson for the Utah National Guard declined to provide specifics on the number of solider deployments, but said each soldier costs $200 a day in pay and gear to help civil authorities at the Capitol. That money is being paid from the state’s Division of Emergency Management.
The Utah Highway Patrol budgets $300,000 a year for extra security during the legislative session and will continue drawing from that in the coming weeks, a UHP spokesman said.