|Brandon Haws (Right)|
By Geoff Liesik
SANTA CLARA - The council responsible for disciplining wayward Utah peace officers meted out sanctions in 14 cases Thursday, including the case of a former school resource officer who sent inappropriate photos to a teenage boy.
Lindsay Jarvis, attorney for former St. George police officer Brandon Haws, told the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council that her client's involvement with the 17-year-old began out of a desire to help the boy.
"Mr. Haws lost his father at 4 years old," Jarvis said. "This particular student had lost his father in a car accident. Mr. Haws, with his position, attempted to act as a mentor or big brother to this student."
The officer and the student began exchanging text messages, sharing photos and communicating through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
"That interaction became inappropriate, quite frankly," Jarvis said.
But she also pointed out that an internal affairs investigation showed Haws was not trying to develop a sexual relationship with the teen. Instead, the officer made a mistake and "started acting like a teenager," the attorney argued.
Haws also addressed the council, asking that its members not strip him of his police certification — a sanction that would forever bar him from working in law enforcement in Utah.
"I have lived my entire life in order to be a police officer," Haws said. "I'm not here to have a pity party. I want to take accountability for what I did. I will say though that I don't think it meets the standard of revocation."
Haws admitted he sent the lewd photos when questioned Thursday by Utah Highway Patrol Col. Daniel Fuhr, a member of the POST Council. Shortly after that admission, the council voted unanimously to revoke Haws' certification for life.
The council also voted to revoke the certification of former Utah County sheriff's deputy William M. Barney for having a sexual relationship with a female probationer.
Council members approved lesser sanctions in 12 other cases.
Former St. George police officer Rick B. Goulding had his certification suspended for three years for engaging in sexual activity while on duty.
Christopher Schoenfeld, a former deputy with the Summit County Sheriff's Office, had his certification suspended for two years for willfully falsifying his application for certification.
Former Garfield County sheriff's deputy Cache Miller also had his certification revoked for two years for assaulting his wife in the presence of their children.
Wayne County sheriff's deputy Craig W. Brown and Unified Police Department dispatcher Chastity T. Corona each had their certifications suspended for 18 months for DUI.
The council suspended former Utah Department of Corrections officer Randall Scott Hall's certification for 15 months for theft and disorderly conduct.
One-year suspensions were handed down to former Springville police officer Nathan N. Brimhall for falsifying a police report, and to former UHP trooper Jon Gardner for a DUI arrest in Colorado that happened before he retired.
Sunset police officer Brian Kirby's certification was suspended for three months for a trespassing incident.
South Salt Lake police officers Anita Bench and Eric R. Jensen each received letters of caution for accessing the state Bureau of Criminal Identification database for unauthorized purposes. The council also issued a letter of caution to Makette Morgan, a dispatcher with the Utah Department of Public Safety, who slapped her former husband's face during a domestic dispute.
Lt. Al Acosta, who heads up POST's investigative unit, said Thursday that his staff received 176 reports of alleged misconduct by officers in 2013. From those reports, 108 cases were opened.
POST Director Scott Stephenson acknowledged that's "an upward trend" from what the agency has seen in past years.
"Just like with anything, there are peaks and valleys," Stephenson said. "These are tough situations. We're dealing with people and their lives. These are never easy things. This is the ugly side of my job."
Less than 1 percent of Utah's nearly 9,000 peace officers ever become the subject of a POST misconduct investigation, the director noted.