16 cops disciplined by Utah police watchdog agency

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ST. GEORGE -- The agency that certifies and disciplines all police officers in Utah handed out warnings, suspensions and revocations to 16 officers for various misdeeds.

But the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council is also looking at going after police chiefs who fail to report an officer's bad behavior in a timely manner.

At its quarterly meeting here on Wednesday, POST Council members heard from many of the officers facing discipline. They pleaded for their jobs.

"That was the biggest mistake of my life," said Bart Higbee, a police cadet who was given a one year suspension for patronizing a prostitute. "It's something that I regret and will learn from very much."

Former Box Elder Sheriff's deputy Richard Bills told the council: "I screwed up" in a domestic violence incident with his wife. The POST Council gave him a 3 1/2 year suspension.

Some officers escaped with a "letter of caution," which is a warning on their record. Those included West Jordan police officers Tyler Venema and Denise Vincent, who admitted to tearing up a ticket that was written. Utah Department of Corrections officer Brock Findlay also got a letter of caution for purchasing the wrong type of fishing license while vacationing in Idaho.

The most serious punishment handed down on Wednesday was to former Ogden police officer Dan Oberg, whose badge was revoked by the POST Council after investigators said he admitted to having sex on duty at a police substation and in the back of his patrol car.

Other officers disciplined included:

  • Ralph Evans, a Unified Police officer who got a letter of caution for reckless driving;
  • Martin Luther Turner III, a retired UHP trooper, who got a one-year suspension for wrongful appropriation of police equipment, according to POST investigators;
  • Rueben Badger, a former Utah County Sheriff's employee who got an 18-month suspension for impersonating an officer. POST investigators said he pulled someone over in a traffic stop even though he wasn't a working officer;
  • Kevin Erskine, a former West Bountiful officer, who was given a letter of caution after POST said he admitted to sex while on his lunch break;
  • Mayra Cardenas, a former Ogden police employee whom POST claims admitted to falsifying information on an academy application, was given a 2-year suspension;
  • Christopher Hauser, a police cadet who was given a 2-year suspension for falsifying information on an academy application;
  • Robert Carter, a former Utah Dept. of Corrections officer, whom POST said was involved in a domestic violence incident, was given a 2-year suspension;
  • Jerald Bradford, a former San Juan County Sheriff's deputy whom POST said had sex while on duty in the back of a patrol car, was given a 2-year suspension;
  • Janea Vandehei, a former Box Elder County Sheriff's deputy, who was given a 3-year suspension for a domestic violence incident. She told the council she was defending herself.

The POST Council broke from a recommended letter of caution for Unified Police officer Jonathan Richey, who pleaded no contest to a trespassing charge. After hearing from his lawyer, the council rejected the warning and voted to take no action against Richey.

The POST Council said the number of disciplinary actions taken against officers is on par with previous years. With more than 9,000 certified police officers in the state, POST insists the number of those disciplined is still less than one percent.

Still, the agency's executive director wants to ensure police agencies report misconduct quickly -- and he's asking the Utah State Legislature to make it law.

POST Executive Director Scott Stephenson told FOX 13 he would ask lawmakers to allow them to seek sanctions against police chiefs and sheriffs who don't report officer misconduct to them in a timely manner.

"I'm just trying to clarify the statute to make sure there is no ambiguity whatsoever," he said. "There is no question of what is expected of a chief law enforcement administrator to report."

Stephenson's plan was met with some mixed reaction from the chiefs and sheriffs who serve on the council.

"I think there's going to be some concerns on guidelines," said Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith. "What should be (reported), what should be handled internally."

Stephenson said the language of any proposed bill is still being drafted and would include input from law enforcement agencies. He also did not know what kind of sanctions would be sought if police chiefs or sheriffs break the law.

"That's the million dollar question," he said.

6 comments

  • Trish Ramirez

    Only 16? And it’s insane they get suspensions and reprimands for this but can shoot citizens with impunity. Priorities people.

    • Bob

      Figured you would have some kind of condescending remark since you hate cops. My guess is that you have been arrested as many time as the number of words in your rants.

    • C'MON TRISH

      Trish is mad because her family was deported after committing a ridiculous number of crimes against their hosting country.

    • Typical Trish Response

      You have to assume some job related risks when you’re in the illegal pharmaceuticals business. Rule of thumb: Don’t try running over the nice police officer when you’re be arrested for selling drugs and your trip to jail won’t be so stressful.

  • Jon Richey

    No mention about those of us falsely accused and exonerated!!! I’m a 30 year cop who got a citation because a rural cop had a bone to pick with me. I testified against his buddy and co-worker years ago after said colleague violated someone’s civil rights–all caught on dash cam! It’s been a year of waiting. A year of hell knowing that the POST Counsel could have suspended my license even though I simply did the right thing. After hearing an overzealous summary presented by an attorney representing the Counsel, whose sole objective was to hammer me as hard as he could, I can only thank God for the Counsel and especially the Chair who saw right past the vindictive action of the POST attorney. Some of us shouldn’t be cops. Agreed. But for the rest of us, we are faced with the commonplace truth that we can be so easily accused regardless of what the underlying facts and motives might be. In my case, I was vindicated …but only after paying thousands of dollars (that should have gone to my family) to defend my self against an accusation made on a whim by someone with a vindictive motive. It’s just a great feeling to be a cop in the dog-eat-dog world of 2014!

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