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Newly-hired Mantua police chief was fired from West Jordan PD, had history of misconduct

Posted at 5:22 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 16:42:07-04

MANTUA, Utah — WEST JORDAN, Utah — The man chosen to lead the police force of a small town in Box Elder County was fired from his previous job in West Jordan in November, according to records obtained by FOX 13.

Mantua Police Chief Craig Hamer was appointed to the position two weeks ago by then-Mayor Michael Johnson.

Johnson resigned later that day. His resignation came shortly after former chief of police Michael Castro claimed he was fired for not writing enough speeding tickets.

Hamer previously worked as an officer for the West Jordan Police Department.

According to department records, however, he has a history of being written up and was ultimately fired in November for multiple violations.

In March 2014, Hamer was given a verbal but documented warning for being reckless during a police pursuit.

According to a notice of findings written by a WJPD lieutenant, Hamer was pursuing a vehicle in October 2013 for a speeding violation when he reached up to 88 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone.

"The need to immediately apprehend the suspect in this case did not outweigh the danger created for the public and yourself," the report reads. "Even though there was not a negative outcome for the public during this incident, a strong potential was there. Your actions during this incident exposed the public to a great risk of injury or even death had an accident occurred."

In August 2016, he was issued a "memorandum" to be more careful when making markings for parking issues after he applied paint to a vehicle's tire and rims a few months prior.

In March 2019, Hamer was given his first official written warning for failing to comply with department dress standards, as well as issues with attendance, punctuality and timekeeping.

In April 2020, he was written up again. The report says he arrested someone without probable cause during a traffic stop.

"I find that you violated constitutional requirements... by restraining a female passenger without lawful cause, reaching into her pocket to search her, and then placing her in the caged portion of your patrol vehicle," WJPD Chief Ken Wallentine wrote.

The write-up also said Hamer allowed a ride-along that had not yet been approved.

In November 2020, Hamer had a third and final "Predetermination Meeting," and he was ultimately fired.

This disciplinary report included three separate allegations, each of which included multiple violations of department policy.

First, Hamer was accused of mishandling a case, including "Neglect of duty," "Unsatisfactory work performance," "Intentionally restricting output," and for not determining "if additional investigative resources... are necessary and request assistance as required."

The case involved the theft of a U-Haul trailer. According to the disciplinary report, Hamer learned that a human body was inside the trailer, but he "did not fully investigate or document the incident."

On Oct. 23, WJPD asked the public to help them find a U-Haul trailer that contained the body of a deceased person, which was being transported to Utah by family members for burial.

Although the disciplinary report did not specify if this was the same case, FOX 13 is not aware of more than one such incident being reported in West Jordan during the fall of 2020.

At the time, WJPD reported that the trailer was stolen from a hotel parking lot around 5:30 a.m. However, the city's official Facebook post asking for help wasn't posted until almost 4 p.m. that day.

Fortunately, the trailer was found later that afternoon in Kearns with the contents still present and intact.

The November 2020 disciplinary report alleges that Hamer treated the case as a "routine stolen vehicle" containing "stolen property" — when the trailer actually contained the body of the complainant's deceased wife. It also says he failed to "promptly gather the available video recording," which, if it was the same incident as previously reported on by FOX 13, clearly showed the suspect's vehicle pulling away with the trailer.

"You did not recognize the impact of this theft on the victim (the funeral for the deceased was scheduled for that day) and the need for more resources to aid in the investigation," the report stated, adding that his actions showed "an unacceptable lack of judgment and lack of compassion for the complainant."

The November 2020 disciplinary meeting also included allegations of insubordination and lying to a supervisor.

After these allegations, combined with the possible consequences for future misconduct included in Hamer's previous two written warnings, it was determined that Hamer should be terminated from his job.

"I find that these violations are of a serious nature and show a pattern of ongoing and uncorrected behavior," the West Jordan police chief wrote. "This behavior is unacceptable and inconsistent with the character and level of performance expected of City employees."

Hamer later filed an official grievance for the allegations included in the last write-up. The West Jordan City chief administrative officer "denied [the grievance] in part and granted [the grievance] in part." The findings stated that the allegations of insubordination and mishandling the stolen U-Haul case were "sustained," but the allegation of lying to a supervisor was "unsustained" because there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove it.

Although Hamer's termination was "effective immediately" on Nov. 19, he filed an official "voluntary resignation form" with the city's human resources department in January, which was approved by supervisors in February.

The Town of Mantua declined to comment on Hamer's employment history.

Mantua is no stranger to controversy when it comes to its police chiefs.

As stated earlier in this article, former Chief Michael Castro was fired after less than a year. Then-Mayor Michael Johnson at the time said it was due to personal reasons, and that it "in no way had anything to do with budget concerns or citations."

However, a FOX 13 investigation found that Johnson acknowledged Mantua has long relied on citations to fund its police. Castro also told FOX 13 that while there was never a written quota, he was told to issue "between three to five citations a day."

Mantua has a long history of being seen as a "speed trap" on U.S. Highway 89 through Sardine Canyon.

Before Castro was hired, former Chief Shane Zilles resigned after being arrested for driving under the influence in his patrol vehicle. He was later suspended for two years by the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.

Zilles was arrested multiple times afterward, again on suspicion of DUI.