Police misconduct investigations increasing, 14 officials disciplined

Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-27 19:37:15-04

SANTA CLARA, Utah -- The number of officers being investigated for allegations of misconduct has been increasing.

On Thursday, the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council met to hand out discipline against 14 deputies, dispatchers and officers facing misconduct accusations. Some of the accused came to personally plead their cases.

"I want to be able to come here and take accountability for what I did," said former St. George police officer Brandon Haws. "I don't believe it meets the standard of revocation."

Haws, a former school resource officer, was disciplined for sending inappropriate texts, pics and video to a 17-year-old student. His attorney, Lindsay Jarvis, told the POST Council that it was inappropriate, but she said it was determined that none of the posts were sexual in nature.

The POST Council revoked his badge anyway.

The number of police officers facing discipline by POST has been increasing. On Thursday, the council -- made up of law enforcement agency representatives -- announced the hiring of a fifth investigator to handle the caseload.

"On average, it's an upward trend," said POST Executive Director Scott Stephenson. "But just like everything, there are peaks and valleys."

In 2013, POST received 176 complaints of misconduct involving officers. It opened 108 investigations. The top offenses were DUI, theft, domestic violence and lying, said POST Lt. Al Acosta.

In recent years, the number of investigations had dropped because POST changed its policy in 2010 to no longer investigate what have been termed "bedroom crimes," private sexual conduct involving officers such as an extramarital affair. It reflected court rulings about private sexual conduct, Stephenson said.

"We no longer look at those unless they are considered on-duty," he told FOX 13 News.

While the cases can be shocking, POST Council notes that there are nearly 9,000 certified peace officers in the state. The number of those disciplined still amounts to less than one percent.

"These are tough situations. We're dealing with people and their lives," Stephenson said. "These are never easy things. This is the ugly side of my job."

Those disciplined by the POST Council on Thursday included:

  • William Barney, a former Utah Co. Sheriff's deputy whose badge was revoked for custodial sexual misconduct;
  • Rick Goulding, a former St. George police officer who received a 3-year suspension for sexual conduct on duty;
  • Christopher Schoenfeld, a former Summit Co. Sheriff's deputy who received a 2-years suspension for falsifying information to obtain certification;
  • Cache Miller, a former Garfield Co. Sheriff's deputy who received a 2-year suspension for assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child;
  • Craig Brown, a Wayne Co. Sheriff's deputy who received an 18-month suspension for a DUI accusation. Brown told the POST Council he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder;
  • Randall Scott Hall, a former Utah corrections officer who was given a 15-month suspension for theft and disorderly conduct;
  • Nathan Brimhall, a former Springville officer who received a 1-year suspension for falsifying government records;
  • Jon Gardner, a former Utah Highway Patrol Trooper who received a 1-year suspension for a DUI offense in Colorado. Gardner gained notoriety for a YouTube video that was posted showing him using a Taser on a man during a traffic stop;
  • Makette Morgan, a DPS dispatcher, was given a letter of caution in a domestic violence case;
  • Brian Kirby, a Sunset police officer, was given a 3-month suspension for criminal trespassing;
  • Anita Bench, a South Salt Lake police officer, was given a letter of caution for a BCI violation. POST investigators said she and Eric Jenson improperly used a state driver license database to look up information. Jenson was also given a letter of caution;
  • Chastity Corona, a Unified Police dispatcher, was given an 18-month suspension after being arrested for DUI and having an open container