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Police chiefs could face punishment for not reporting officer misconduct

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Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-06 19:34:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The state's police watchdog agency is considering sanctions against police chiefs and sheriffs who fail to report cases of officer misconduct.

Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training, the agency that certifies and disciplines police officers, is looking at punishing police administrators who fail to report cases quickly enough. By law, police administrators must report cases of misconduct to POST so it can launch its own investigation.

"Right now, there's no teeth to the statute," Scott Stephenson, POST's executive director, said in a recent interview with FOX 13. "There needs to be some type of sanction for not reporting."

POST wants some type of punishment for chiefs and sheriffs who don't report allegations of misconduct that can range from DUIs, sex offenses, lying and theft.

"The whole impetus for this adminstrative rule is to add a little teeth to it and hold all administrators accountable as we do every other officer in all levels of law enforcement," Stephenson said.

POST has considered making it a crime, a class C misdemeanor. But at its December meeting, the POST Council -- which is made up largely of police chiefs and sheriffs -- did not seem to support that.

"I'd be willing to make the motion that we go ahead and move towards an administrative remedy to this issue," then-Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds told the council.

The council voted for making it an administrative penalty, bringing chiefs and sheriffs before POST to explain themselves. Before it becomes policy, it would still need input from sheriffs and chiefs associations, as well as a period of public comment.

Stephenson said the number of police administrators who don't report misconduct allegations is rare. He said he believes they are not doing so out of a desire to protect their officers from a POST investigation, but it slips through with other duties required of an administrator.

Still, Stephenson said it would ensure transparency at a time when police officers are already under fire for some of their actions.

Gregory Lucero, a member of the group Utah Against Police Brutality, which has led protests in Salt Lake City against police violence, told FOX 13 he believes it should be a crime for police administrators who don't report misconduct.

"I think that's a good start, but not nearly enough," Lucero said. "We need to hold these police to a higher standard. Certainly, at the top is a good start."