Questions Regarding Complaints and Officer Misconduct
In light of recent actions by officers in Utah, the Utah Department of Public Safety has received multiple inquiries regarding officer misconduct and investigations.
It is important to keep in mind that in a system of government, such as we have, where local control is emphasized, county and municipal police departments have a great deal of autonomy. Oversight and management of the day-to-day operations and procedures of the law enforcement agency are at the discretion of the elected sheriff who is directly answerable to the people, or chief of police who is answerable to the mayor or city council.
Generally, it is best to refer concerns about the operations, actions or policy of a local agency to the chief, sheriff or elected officials of the city or county.
The State of Utah Department of Public Safety and its Division of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) does have some statutory authority over police officer misconduct. Per Utah Code 53-6-211, POST investigates officer misconduct, which includes:
- willfully falsifies any information to obtain certification;
- has any physical or mental disability affecting the peace officer’s ability to perform duties;
- is addicted to alcohol or any controlled substance, unless the peace officer reports the addiction to the employer and to the director as part of a departmental early intervention process;
- engages in conduct which is a state or federal criminal offense, but not traffic offense that is a class C misdemeanor or infraction
- refuses to respond, or fails to respond truthfully, to questions after having been issued a warning based on Garrity v. New Jersey,385 U.S. 493 (1967);
- engages in sexual conduct while on duty; or
- is certified as a law enforcement officer, and is unable to possess a firearm under state or federal law.
Anything short of the aforementioned statute would fall under the provisions of an officer’s city, county or departmental policy and procedure. Any officer misconduct that rises to the level of Utah Code 53-6-211 will be reviewed by POST Investigators and the appropriate action will be recommended to the POST Council for ratification.
Major J. Scott Stephenson
Director of Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST)