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FOX 13 Investigates: Heber City police chief accused of lying about use of force training

Posted at 10:02 PM, Dec 22, 2021

HEBER CITY, Utah — The agency tasked with certifying police officers in the state of Utah has received a formal complaint, accusing Heber City Police Chief Dave Booth of lying about his use of force training.

Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) confirmed it received the complaint on Tuesday.

As FOX 13 first reported last week, officers are also accusing the city of retaliation after they reported Booth for use of force. They accused the chief of choking a handcuffed suspect while placing him into the back of a police car earlier this year.

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The city has tried and failed to obscure all records and information related to the internal use of force investigation.

According to the POST complaint filed by Sgt. Jason Jarvie, he believes he can prove Booth lied about his use of force training.

Jarvie said he keeps detailed records every time he conducts training and that Booth falsely claimed to have attended some of Jarvie's classes.

"Having instructed these training, and reviewing my records, his claim of participating in these trainings is false," Jarvie wrote. "It's our obligation to within the law enforcement community to police ourselves and provide transparency to the public."

According to his resignation letter, Jarvie left the Heber City Police Department in September "solely due to the City's retaliatory actions" upon reporting the chief's use of force.

Captain Alex Garcia, the deputy director of POST, said the state takes all complaints seriously and confirmed he has seen FOX 13's reporting.

"I'm not able to make any sort of comment on that at this time," Garcia said. "We are in the preliminary stages of a complaint, which would mess with the integrity of that investigation."

POST is allowed to open an investigation after screening the complaint to ensure the state has the authority to act under 53-6-211.

"The council has the authority to issue a Letter of Caution, or suspend or revoke the certification of a peace officer, if the peace officer:

(a) willfully falsifies any information to obtain a certification...

(c) engages in conduct constituting a state or federal criminal offense...

(g) is found by a court or by a law enforcement agency to have knowingly engaged in conduct that involves dishonesty or deception in violation of a policy of the peace officer's employer or in violation of a state or federal law."

"Anything that you do pertaining to your certification or verifying your certification would be considered a government document," Garcia said. "The integrity of this profession is what we swear to uphold... No complaint is disregarded. We do a complete, independent, thorough investigation on every case that's opened, and not only every case that's opened, but every complaint."

Garcia said police chiefs are not treated any differently than officers.

Multiple law enforcement experts told FOX 13 - regardless of whether Booth used excessive force in his interactions with the handcuffed suspect - they don't know why the chief had so much trouble.

"Is that proper technique that's taught to police officers?" asked Chris Burbank, former chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department. "No, it's not."

Booth did not create a use of force report after the incident.

When speaking with FOX 13, Booth flatly denied that he put hands on the suspect's neck. His statement contradicts what he told state investigators while under criminal investigation.

"It doesn't ever work out like they teach you in POST," he told state investigators. "It's a fight. It's a dang fight."

Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby, Lieutenant James Moore, and Lieutenant Jeremy Nelson were also named in the POST complaint, accused of violating Utah's Whistleblower Statute.

According to Jarvie, both Moore and Nelson strongly encouraged him to give up his rank of sergeant after filing the use of force complaint against Booth.

"This intimidation tactic was reported to Human Resources... It is my sincere hope that members of POST will see the negative consequences of allowing police administrations to retaliate against officers bringing forward a good faith (use of force) complaint," Jarvie wrote. "These actions will unquestionably deter some members of the law enforcement community from reporting potential violations of policy or law involving people in positions of power."

Despite being a county employee, videos obtained by FOX 13 show Rigby repeatedly spoke on behalf of Heber City, sometimes lecturing or threatening officers rather than asking questions.

“It really comes down to the future – your future in the police department,” Rigby told one concerned officer. “So, you can dig in your heels and say, ‘This is how I feel and no one’s going to change,’ and okay, that’s your decision. You just won’t get any trusted positions having to do with (defensive tactics), and use of force, and sergeant, and those kinds of things, because you’re not willing to learn and be open minded to it.”

Rigby interviewed Jarvie on September 14, 2021 as part of a separate internal investigation in which Jarvie was accused of lying about Booth's use of force.

There is no timetable on how long it might take for POST to open or finish an investigation, but once it is complete, the results will be made public.

If Booth is found to have falsified his training, punishment could range from decertification to a written warning.

Heber City has ignored requests for comment.

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