Dispatchers and Police Chiefs Behaving Badly

Observations on Utah Police Chiefs and Dispatchers Behaving Badly

By Ken K. Gourdin

Part I Myton, Utah Chief Wade Butterfield:  Justifiably Harsh Words About an Especially Egregious Violation of the Public Trust

Former Myton, Utah police chief Wade Butterfield was charged with stalking and other offenses for alleged conduct in which he engaged toward several women.  While he was just acquitted in one case, he does face others.  I can’t find a source for it, but at least one local media outlet reported that when one of his victims allegedly woke to find him sitting at the foot of her bed and asked him how he got into her home, he said, “I’m a cop, Holly.  We know how to do these kinds of things.”

In comments on media coverage, I addressed Mr. Butterfield directly:

I’ll leave ultimate earthy proof to a prosecutor, and the decision about whether that prosecutor has met his burden to a jury. That said, if others’ allegations of what you told them are true, such statements, even standing alone, prove that yours, sir, were especially egregious violations of the public trust. Not only should you lose your badge and pension, you should serve significant time in jail. To me, you seem to be the very personification of that old adage about how power corrupts. And if I were the judge in the case, that’s exactly what I would tell you when I imposed such a sentence upon you. (And I would make the sentences for a couple of those misdemeanor charges consecutive rather than concurrent to give you a little extra time to think about what you’ve done.)

Good luck getting a job at Wal-Mart when you get out.

After seeing his photograph, I added, “It just dawned on me: We’re the same age. From the looks of things, your 45 have been a helluva lot harder on you than my 45 have been on me.” And in response to quips about his appearance, I added, “And you guys are being too hard on him with those wisecracks about his hair. Using an animal pelt as a toupee is a lot cheaper than buying the real thing!”

One of the charges he faced was unlawful detention.  His alleged victim was not under arrest and was not being detained pending investigation of any offense.  Butterfield had taken her for a ride in his patrol car, ostensibly to search for her missing vehicle.  She reportedly told him several times she wanted him to let her out, and he did not comply.  

The Utah unlawful detention statute, Utah Code Annotated, Title 76, Chapter 5, § 304, reads in part: “ An actor commits unlawful detention if the actor intentionally or knowingly, without authority of law, and against the will of the victim, detains or restrains the victim under circumstances not constituting a violation of [Utah’s kidnapping, child kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping statutes, respectively].”

Upon news of his acquittal, I wrote:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read the unlawful detention statute, and I don’t have access to cases construing it, but, to me, it seems that if she says, “Please pull over, I’d like to get out now,” and he doesn’t, that’s a prima facie case that he violated that statute. On those facts, the only way the jurors could acquit him is if they don’t believe her. And if I were [Butterfield’s attorney] Mr. [Earl] Xaiz, there’s no way I would let Mr. Butterfield within ten miles of the stand unless I’m concerned about whether the witnesses against him are credible.

Part II – Monticello Utah Chief Kent Adair and a Dispatcher Laugh About an Incident Involving a Now-Former Monticello Police Sergeant

Monticello, Utah, P.D. Sergeant Cole Young was suspended pending investigation of assault on a man he found in his estranged wife’s home while Young was off-duty. Young was later fired over the incident When Young’s wife reported the incident, the dispatcher—no doubt hoping for grist to feed the small-town community rumor mill—wanted to know who the victim was.

The dispatcher called another Monticello officer, who did no investigation beyond determining that Young’s truck was parked at his residence. Then she called Monticello Police Chief Kent Adair, and they are heard laughing about the incident on dispatch recordings. Chief Adair told the dispatcher to pass the report on to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in the morning. In response to news coverage of the incident, I wrote:

So, let me get this straight, Chief Adair: It is a conflict of interest for your agency to investigate the report because one of your officers was involved in the incident, but it’s not a conflict of interest for you to decide to sit on the call overnight before passing it on to the agency responsible for investigating it? And I was a dispatcher only long enough to realize how badly I sucked at it, but everyone, including dispatchers and officers in Hole-in-the-Wall, Nowhere, needs to approach every call as though everyone on earth eventually will be able to listen in on how it was handled because, essentially, that opportunity will be available to anyone who chooses to avail himself of it and who has the resources (i.e., the equipment) necessary to do so.

Update, January 8, 2015: Now comes word that the sheriff has recommended the firing of the dispatcher who had the above-described conversation with the chief, the sheriff’s deputy who confined his “investigation” of this reported incident to verifying the location of the former Monticello officer’s truck has been fired, and the chief has been placed on leave.  See here, last accessed today:

http://www.sltrib.com/news/3395755-155/utah-officer-disciplined-dispatcher-on-leave

 

 

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About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
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