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FOX 13 Investigates: Heber City tried and failed to hide thousands of dollars paid to two whistleblower officers

Chief Dave Booth
Posted at 10:23 PM, May 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-29 02:27:54-04

HEBER CITY, Utah — FOX 13 News has learned Heber City agreed to pay $7,800 to two sergeants who accused the department of retaliating against them for voicing concerns about their chief of police.

The settlement prevents both whistleblowers from filing any future lawsuits.

As part of the settlement, neither side admitted wrongdoing, and neither side is allowed to speak with the media.

Contrary to state law, the settlement was withheld from the public for months. The Utah State Records Committee overruled Heber City’s decision to withhold the document.

FOX 13 Investigates: Officers say Heber City retaliated after they accused police chief of choking suspect 

The two sergeants said the city retaliated against them after voicing concerns about Chief Dave Booth’s use of force on a handcuffed suspect on March 31, 2021.

Body camera video obtained by FOX 13 News showed Booth repeatedly placing his hand on the suspect’s throat while placing him into the back of a police car.

Click the video above to watch the body camera footage.

Sergeant Jason Jarvie said he felt he had no choice but to report the use of force after reviewing department policy. He did not witness the incident firsthand but filed the report after listening to concerns from officers who were on scene.

The other sergeant’s name was not released publicly.

Heber City tried and failed to prevent the public from seeing any of the evidence related to the incident.

The lack of transparency drew criticism from leaders across the Utah law enforcement community.

“Absolutely, it is public information that should have been released,” said Chris Burbank, who used to be chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department. “I think there was a better way to handle this, and (Booth) did not... That is the creation of the thin blue line!”

Public asks Heber City to take action after FOX 13 investigation into chief's conduct

When questioned, Booth flatly denied that the incident ever occurred.

“You were under investigation for putting your hands on someone’s throat,” said FOX 13 News investigative reporter Adam Herbets. “I just want to know what happened.”

“Which never happened,” Booth responded.

“We have the video, sir,” Herbets said.

All body camera video was obtained by FOX 13 News independently.

FOX 13 News also learned that Mayor Kelleen Potter addressed the department shortly after reinstating the chief, telling a room full of officers that “karma’s a b****.”

City Attorney Mark Smedley verified the mayor’s comments. He later argued that the mayor’s intent was not to intimidate the whistleblower officers.

“It was not directed at the complainers necessarily,” Smedley said. “It was directed at the whole department – to say, ‘Be careful about what you’re doing when you go talk about things and the damages that can occur.’”

Mayor Potter declined to comment.

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Jarvie said his supervisors strongly encouraged him to take a demotion after reporting the chief.

As part of the internal affairs investigation, Booth was never interviewed before being cleared of all wrongdoing.

Instead, Wasatch County Sheriff Jared Rigby recorded himself threatening officers’ advancement within the Heber City Police Department.

Some officers and citizens have accused Rigby of being friends with Booth, and therefore incapable of conducting an impartial investigation.

“There is no excessive use of force, and so your perception is wrong,” Rigby told one concerned officer. “What Dave Booth did is not even use of force.”

“It really comes down to the future – your future in the police department,” Rigby continued. “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.”

Burbank said he was outraged to hear Rigby threaten the jobs of Heber City officers, referring to the “investigation” as a “witch hunt.”

The city tried and failed to keep the video of Rigby’s interviews private.

Despite Booth not being interviewed, Smedley referred to Rigby’s investigation as “one of the most thorough investigations (he has) ever seen.”

“If it was such a minor use of force, why so much effort to cover it up?” asked Cameron Platt, the attorney representing the two sergeants. “The way that the city treated (the complaint) and reacted is much more important (than the use of force), and much worse.”

Heber City entered into the $7,800 settlement with the two sergeants within weeks of FOX 13 News’ first report.

The city then spent the next few months trying to hide the spending of taxpayer dollars from the public.

FOX 13 News appealed that decision to the State Records Committee.

“The public has a right to understand how public money is being spent,” Herbets argued at a hearing in May 2022. “In Utah, non-disclosure agreements don’t apply to government agencies, particularly when these government agencies are entrusted with the spending of public taxpayer money. This is a taxpayer-funded settlement.”

“The story has run its course,” Smedley countered. “FOX (13) News has run a complete story. There’s nothing else in our estimation out there.”

The State Records Committee agreed that Utah law dictates the settlement must be released to the public.

The vote was unanimous.

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