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In this Sunday Edition, when police officers run afoul of the law, what happens to public trust? The honored men and women who hold the thin blue line are not immune from failings. What are the standards our police our expected to maintain? And what happens when they fail? Also, imagine the shock to a Utah legislator when he discovered he doesn't live in his district, and is ineligible to serve.
Segment 1: Officers in trouble with the law
An arrest on Jan. 10 dealt a crushing blow to the career of one of Utah's most prominent law enforcement officers. Beau Babka had served as chief of police in South Salt Lake, undersheriff in Salt Lake County, a candidate for Congress, and most recently a candidate for sheriff. The news brought to mind other accounts of the past year of police officers behaving badly.
In August, Provo police officer Jeffery Westerman pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman at the scene of a traffic accident.
We are in the public eye, we live in a fish bowl. And it's important for us to maintain that public confidence and report what's going on that is good and what's going on that is bad in our profession. You've got to take the good with the bad with any situation.
Another Provo police officer, Mark Petersen, was arrested in October for pulling a gun on his common-law wife.
Several police chiefs also found themselves on the other side of the law. Perry police Chief Mike Jones ended up on paid administrative leave after an altercation with a Walmart greeter in Harrisville in December.
In June Spanish Fork's police chief Dee Rosenbaum was accused of shoplifting inside a Provo mall. Rosenbaum said he intended to pay for the items and was cleared, but a police source who released this surveillance video to KSL believed the incident should have been investigated by an outside agency.
In December, the Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, council took disciplinary action against more than two dozen current and former law enforcement officers, including former Midvale police Sgt. John Salazar. He received a two-year suspension of his certification for driving while under the influence through a Holladay neighborhood in November 2009. He crashed into several cars.
Our organization understands that police officers need to be held to the same accountability as other citizens, as the general public does, we just want the officer to not be kicked when he's down.
Scott Stevenson, director of POST, and Chad Soffe, president of the Utah State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, join KSL's Bruce Lindsay. POST is a branch of the Utah Department of Public Safety. It trains, certifies and, when necessary, investigates police misconduct and may decertify an officer.
The POST council convenes quarterly. In December they took 29 actions, which is a typical number. The average is 25 to 30. The actions in the most recent council meeting included possession of a controlled substance, lying under oath, DUI and soliciting a prostitute.
"I think the reason why you are seeing and are kind of alarmed by those numbers and the charges is that law enforcement airs its dirty laundry," explains Stevenson. "We are in the public eye, we live in a fish bowl. And it's important for us to maintain that public confidence and report what's going on that is good and what's going on that is bad in our profession. You've got to take the good with the bad with any situation."
When officers get in trouble it draws a lot of attention, but few officers violate the law.
"Out of 93,000 officers we have 64 cases, on average, per year presented to the council. That's less than one percent of our profession committing violations of the law. So it's a very small percentage," Stevenson says.
The Fraternal Order of the Police is the world's largest organization of law enforcement officers, with more than 325,000 members.
"Our organization understands that police officers need to be held to the same accountability as other citizens, as the general public does," explains Soffe. "We just want the officer to not be kicked when he's down basically or paraded, as when the media knows when he's coming out of jail was very embarrassing... and we feel like that doesn't help anybody or help the situation of the officer who is obviously going to have a lot of trouble to deal with in the times ahead."
The organization gives officers an attorney to be with them at their POST disciplinary action, as well as serving many other functions for officers.
"We band together to pass laws that we benefit, not only the public but police officers," Soffe says. "We work to get better working conditions and we also support families of fallen officers, when an officer is killed or injured in the line of duty."
Segment 2: Legislative district mix up
Utah's state Legislative District 57 in northern Utah County no longer has a state representative, even though its voters re-elected him in November.
Rep. Craig Frank joins Sunday Edition to tell his tale of woe. And Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson -- the man in charge of that election -- has agreed to answer questions.
I think the simple fix, as was brought forward by a number of constituents and people who have thought through this process, the fix is to have the Legislature in a special session... make the adjustment, the proper statutory adjustment to annex that or to validate the current map that has already been drawn by the county clerk of Utah County.
–Rep. Craig Frank
Frank believes that he should be the representative and that the process has been flawed.
"Under the current provisions of the canvas and under the current provisions of the non-contest, 45-day period afterward, I would suggest that I am still the representative of that area," says Frank.
Frank looked at a map several years ago which showed that his new house would be in the district.
The issue is whether the map was wrong.
"Through our initial investigation and as we're putting the time line together we discovered that this is an error that occurred almost 10 years ago," Thompson explains. "Essentially what happened was the annexation of the area that Mr. Frank now lives resides in Cedar Hills was taking place almost simultaneously as the legislature was setting the new boundaries based upon the 2000 census."
The elected representative believes the fix is simple.
"I think the simple fix, as was brought forward by a number of constituents and people who have thought through this process, the fix is to have the Legislature in a special session... make the adjustment, the proper statutory adjustment to annex that or to validate the current map that has already been drawn by the county clerk of Utah County," says Frank.