Fired for punching woman after pursuit, former UHP officer hired by Ogden PD

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OGDEN — A Utah Highway Patrol trooper who was caught on tape punching a woman multiple times after a chase and was later fired for it has a new job as a peace officer.

Andrew Davenport was hired by the Ogden Police Department in June 2011, months after he was let go by the Utah Highway Patrol as a result of the allegation of excessive use of force during a pursuit on Aug. 28, 2010.

Davenport was rated by a commission as the top candidate out of 102 on the eligibility list, Ogden Police Chief Mike Ashment said in a prepared statement. He said Davenport went through a background check and behavior evaluation.

Darla Wright, the woman who was punched several times in the head during a stop before midnight on Aug. 2010, can't believe the Ogden Police Department hired him. "He doesn't deserve a second chance," she said. "That's not how an officer of the law, that's not how you're supposed to react."

She said Davenport shouldn't be in law enforcement anywhere. "I think he should be behind bars."

In a report on the Aug. 2010 incident Sgt. Davenport wrote, he said Wright, "had the accelerator floored and engine revving in an attempt to push our vehicles out of the way." The sound of the engine cannot be heard over blaring sirens on the videos.

"I delivered three close-hand strikes to her head in an attempt to gain compliance with our commands. I did this to distract and stun her and to stop her from trying to drive off and strike our vehicles or possibly run us over," Sgt. Davenport wrote in his report. "The strikes worked and we were able to grab her hands."

Wright was believed to have been drinking because of her erratic driving, but was never charged with DUI. She was charged with failure to stop or respond at the command of police, a third-degree felony. Court records show that the case was dismissed.

Ashment said the incident dash cam video was taken into account during a background check and that "Davenport remains POST certified to engage in law enforcement activities." The statement went on to say he was cleared of any legal wrongdoing.

Davenport has filed an appeal in an effort to clear his name in regards to the UHP termination decision. Ashment was in the process of reviewing the findings.

The police department said Davenport, who has over 10 years of experience as a police officer, including several years as a sergeant, had no comment.

The dash cam video of the August incident shows the aftermath of the pursuit that led troopers winding through Ogden.

Sgt. Davenport can be seen in the videos breaking the front driver's-side window, reaching into the car, and punching Wright five times to the head while another trooper deploys a Taser through a rear passenger window. Peace Officer Standards and Training Director Scott Stephenson said dash cam video rarely tells the whole story.

"When you're out in the field, everything is dynamic," he said. "It is fast. It's very high speed, and officers are expected to make split-second decisions."

He said sometimes the video is clear, and other times it's not so clear and "it leaves the viewer the ability to see something that's maybe not happening."

POST reviews cases like this to determine whether disciplinary action needs to be taken on a state level. It looks into about 250 complaints against officers each year. Less than half of those end up before the POST council, which can discipline or even decertify law enforcers.

POST did look over trooper Andrew Davenport's actions. Because it determined criminal negligence was not involved, the case was left for UHP to handle internally.

Stephenson would not comment on Davenport's case, but said each incident was unique and POST's involvement often depended on whether there was a criminal case against the officer.

When no state or criminal action was taken, Stephenson said officers can keep their certification and look for work. Whether they got hired was up to the employer.

"If they do a thorough investigation, then they would most likely find out the reasons for them losing employment," he said.

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Andrew Adams and Mike Anderson


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