Portraits of Peace House History: Mary Ford

The Valuable Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Peace House

Mary Ford

This year marks 25 years of Peace House serving survivors of family violence and abuse in Summit and Wasatch counties through shelter, support services, education and outreach. As part of our 25th Anniversary Year, each month we are spotlighting some of the many individuals who have shaped Peace House history. Throughout the year, we will be honoring and commemorating all those who have supported the life-saving and life-changing work that Peace House has offered our community over the past 25 years.

Mary Ford moved from Connecticut to Utah in 1983, and was hired by Park City’s Police Chief Frank Bell shortly after. Mary worked as a patrol officer from 1983-1986, and then as a detective for the remainder of her 30 plus year career with the Park City Police Department (PCPD). While on patrol she would respond to domestic violence calls, which she remembers as “the scariest calls”. Without local support services and resources for victims, beyond the YWCA in Salt Lake City, Mary recalls that “we would just handle victims on our own” and sometimes rely on a handwritten list of names of ladies willing to shelter families escaping violence (Portraits of Peace House History: Evelyn Richards). Mary’s frustration at the lack of resources to support victims fleeing abuse drove her commitment to raise awareness in the community and the efforts of the committed volunteers who had formed the Domestic Peace Task Force (DPTF), later known as Peace House.

Lloyd Evans was the chief detective for the PCPD when Mary first came to town. Lloyd later became Deputy Chief, and then Chief of Police. Reflecting on those early days, Lloyd remembers “domestic violence was tough, it was considered a ‘family issue’, [and] not dealt with by law enforcement”. Lloyd continues, “we looked for resources, but resources in Salt Lake seemed really far away. We were ill equipped to handle victims. We weren’t trained, there was nowhere to send them or take them”. Lloyd realized that “we had to get resources to help victims”.

1990: Nadalee Noble’s murder mobilizes the community

Things culminated in February of 1990 when Nadalee Noble, a Summit County resident, was shot and killed by her estranged husband while leaving Park City’s only grocery store (Portraits of Peace House History: Teri Orr). Nadalee’s murder brought domestic violence to the community’s attention as a serious public health issue, rather than just a personal matter. Following the death of Nadalee Noble, Linda Hathaway, Jean Paulson and other volunteers helped organize disparate grassroots efforts into a cohesive system of support for survivors of domestic violence. They incorporated the organization into Domestic Peace Task Force in 1992, and began raising awareness and working towards providing expanded resources (Portraits of Peace House History: Jean Paulson and Linda Hathaway). Mary supported the efforts of these early founders of Peace House and was invited to join the first Board, acting as a liaison between the Park City Police Department and what would later be known as Peace House. Deputy Chief Lloyd Evans was also invested in the task force and attended board meetings and wrote letters of support for the organization.

In 1994, Bob Wells, who had served on the city council and worked directly with the Stern Family at Deer Valley, offered a piece of land to the newly organized DPTF Board and the means to build a shelter for survivors of domestic violence in the community. Bob negotiated a deal with Deer Valley, Park City Municipal and the DPTF to build an emergency shelter across the street from the police station on Marsac Ave in Park City. The shelter represented a monumental step towards ensuring victims of domestic violence in Summit and Wasatch counties had access to local support services and emergency housing. Mary was grateful to see the shelter constructed right across the street from the police station, allowing her to keep a watchful eye over Peace House residents.

1995: Peace House Shelter opens as another domestic violence related murder shakes the community

A few months after Peace House Shelter opened in 1995, a second domestic violence related tragedy shook the community. In the fall of 1995, Patty Blanchard was murdered by her estranged husband. Mary recounts that “this was really close to home because people knew Patty, they knew her husband John”. Patty had been a realtor residing in Park Meadows and had just completed the Park City Leadership Course with many others of Park City’s promising leaders. She had also been best friends and neighbors with Sally Elliott, another engaged community member. Sally recounts picking up Patty’s young children from their grandparents the day after the murder and bringing them to her home, where the children could be interviewed in a safe environment by Mary Ford, who was a detective for the PCPD at the time. The Children’s Justice Center did not yet exist to hold these interviews with minors. The public attention the case received spotlighted the efforts of Peace House and triggered a renewed commitment in the DPTF to educate the community on family violence and abuse. Mary has remained in touch with Patty’s children, and her connection with the case spurred the community to take action and highlighted the need for a Children’s Justice Center. Mary later played an important part in bringing a Children’s Justice Center to Wasatch and Summit counties.

Detective Ford was passionate about the cause and helped facilitate awareness trainings in the police department. Chief Frank Bell supported Mary in her collaboration with Peace House and gave her the direction to “go and make it successful”. He argues that the positive changes made in the police department “could not have happened without Mary. She was a good problem solver. She truly had the dedication”. Jeannie Edens, a victim advocate who worked with Jean Paulson at DPTF and later for Summit County, described Mary as “an amazing advocate for victims of crime, she went above and beyond. If we ever needed help getting established with a new protocol, she would not hesitate for a minute to help us”. Mary worked alongside Jeannie and Jean, as well as others from the County’s Sheriff’s Office, providing groundbreaking annual trainings to law enforcement.

The police department began building a relationship with the volunteers at the DPTF and started utilizing the victim advocacy program, as the Shelter was opening in 1995. Mary recounts, “once [law enforcement] saw how useful a victim advocate was, they would begin calling them”. The Deputy Chief at the time, Lloyd Evans, explained “we needed a resource to help officers out in the field”. He relates working with the DPTF and developing a program that was based on providing pagers to trained volunteers “who would allow us to page them 24-7. If we needed a volunteer to help with victims, we would page them”. The victim advocates would be contacted once the situation was safe and often met the victims at the police department. If the survivor needed shelter at Peace House, Evans elaborates, “we established a protocol where an advocate or shelter worker would then do their intake, and often assist them in crossing the street to the Peace House”.

When Lloyd Evans was asked about Jean Paulson, a founder of DPTF and their victim advocacy program, his immediate response was “what an angel”. Mary recounts many stories of following Jean home, after Jean would pick up a victim, sit through the protective order hearing, and then drive the victim home. Mary was always concerned for the safety of the victim, and Jean, as the time period following the hearing was often particularly volatile. The new victim advocacy program offered the police department a reliable resource and provided support to the victims by helping them initiate protective orders, secure housing, coordinate transportation, and by offering safe emergency shelter through the Peace House. The victim advocacy program that Jean implemented would later become a paid position within Summit County, and today Summit County, Wasatch County and Park City have their own victim advocate programs.

The ongoing relationship between law enforcement and Peace House

The relationship between law enforcement and Peace House has remained strong over the past 25 years. The close collaboration allows for a coordinated response to victims and children affected by domestic violence in the area. Over the past five years, the implementation of the Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) in Summit and Wasatch counties strengthened the existing referral process and has served to connect survivors with additional resources. This evidence-based assessment is most often administered by law enforcement after responding to a domestic violence call. The assessment allows law enforcement to evaluate the level of threat or danger to the victim through a series of questions. The victim is then directly connected with Peace House to speak to an advocate about a safety plan and other resources. More recently, Peace House has further developed the partnership with law enforcement in providing advocacy during forensic exams for sexual assault survivors.

The established collaboration between law enforcement and Peace House that Mary Ford initiated has been sustained throughout the years. Peace House works almost daily with county and city advocates, as well as with response teams, serving as a resource to law enforcement as they engage with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Peace House has consistently had a member of law enforcement serving on the Board of Directors. Sheriff Justin Martinez of Summit County currently serves on the Board and has co-chaired the Peace House domestic violence awareness raising event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Kendra Wyckoff, the current Executive Director of Peace House, remarks that “our partnership with law enforcement is critical to the safety of families in our community. The LAP protocol is one example of how our agencies work together to seamlessly connect survivors to Peace House for safety and support. Our collaboration shares a vital message to survivors in our community – we believe you, we are concerned about your safety and wellbeing, and there is help available”.

Mary served on the Peace House Board until 2001. In December of 2000 she received special recognition from Peace House for her faithful service to the community and “as a liaison between the Domestic Peace Task Force and the Park City Police Department”. [1] She remained with the Park City Police Department as a detective until 2014, when she was honored at her retirement with a standing ovation by the Park City Council as the Mayor of Park City recognized her outstanding contribution to the community. Mary was quoted in a Park Record article in 2014, summarizing her years of service as “women and, especially, children, have always been my main concern or focus”. [2] Mary’s dedication helped ensure the success of Peace House and resulted in the implementation of essential training and protocols that empowered law enforcement to better serve survivors. After leaving the Peace House Board, Mary channeled her time and energy into supporting the first Children’s Justice Center serving Summit and Wasatch counties had access to local support services where children impacted by abuse could receive support and services.

We are grateful for heroes like Mary Ford, and the many others in law enforcement and victim advocacy, who have helped move the needle forward in supporting survivors by connecting them to life-saving services.

Researched and written by Karen Marriott
Edited by Lisa Jackson
Photos provided by The Park Record, Lloyd Evans, and Peace House

Park City Police Chief Lloyd Evans (2008), Mary Ford, Park City Councilor Tim Henney, Sheriff Justin Martinez and Police Chief Wade Carpenter (2019 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes)