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Sandy • Utah's police regulators suspended or revoked the powers of nine officers Monday and discussed the need for educating new recruits about prescription drug use.
The Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council approved new guidelines clarifying that unauthorized use of prescription drugs is an offense that can spur discipline. Previously, guidelines referred only to use or possession of a "controlled substance," though the council over the years has issued discipline for misusing medications, too.
Maj. Scott Stephenson, the director of Utah's police academy, said there is a particular problem with police recruits and cadets not reporting the times they used someone else's prescription drugs. Recruits and cadets are supposed to report all of their illegal drug use on their applications.
"Most people know it's illegal to take somebody's prescription medication," Stephenson said. "They just don't know the severity."
The issue arose during Monday's discipline cases.
The council opted to suspend Utah County Sheriff's deputy Bowdy Nielson for 1 1/2 years for taking cough medication, a pain medication patch and testosterone, all of which belonged to other family members.
Nielson said he did not take the medications to treat addictions or gain a physical advantage. He took his father's pain patch after he hurt himself, Nielson told the council. He took his mother's testosterone medication to treat a fertility issue and took his wife's cough medication when they both appeared to be sick.
"I'm not a doctor, but I kind of figured we had the same thing," Nielson told the council.
The council's staff had recommended a three-year suspension. The council opted for the lesser discipline, in part because of a letter of support for Nielson from Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy.
Peace officers facing discipline are not required to appear before the council, but some do.
David R. Stobart, an officer with Utah State Parks, apologized to the council for being intoxicated when he drove to his girlfriend's house, knocked on her door for up to 45 minutes until local police and his supervisor were called, then returned to the woman's house the next day to try to talk to her again. He asked the council for no more than a three-month suspension so the State Parks Department could put him on leave rather than fire him. Council staff recommended a nine-month suspension.
"There are no words I can find to describe the level of shame I feel here today," Stobart said.
But the council passed a motion issuing Stobart a nine-month suspension.
The Utah State Courts website lists no record of Stobart being criminally charged.
But former Salt Lake County Sheriff's deputy Matthew Routt, 45, is charged with misdemeanor assault in Salt Lake City Justice Court. He has pleaded not guilty.
On July 21, 2014, according to court documents, Routt was working as a bailiff at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City and was assigned to watch over the prisoner holding area. One prisoner who was shackled and had his hands cuffed behind his back grew upset, court documents say.
Routt told the prisoner to be quiet. As Routt was closing a door, the prisoner approached it, court documents say. Court papers say Routt opened the door, pushed the prisoner in the chest, causing him to fall backward onto a concrete bench and into a wall.
Routt then grabbed the prisoner by the neck, threw him to the other end of the bench and put his hands on the prisoner's neck again, court papers say. Two other bailiffs tried to stop Routt, documents say, and encouraged the prisoner to "tap out."
The council on Monday suspended Routt for three years. He resigned from the sheriff's office on Jan. 20.
Other discipline issued Monday included:
Pleasant View • Jerry L. Anderson Jr., three-year suspension for sex on duty and misusing a police database
Utah Department of Corrections • Kyle Andersen, six-month suspension for falsifying his boss' signature on a pre-sentencing report; Mike P. Little, revocation of his certification for check forgery and lying to investigators
Wasatch County Sheriff's Office • Sheila Reed, one-year suspension for driving under the influence
Weber County Sheriff's Office • Bill Hansen, 18-month suspension for driving under the influence; Scottie Sorensen, three-year suspension for using pain medication without a valid prescription
Also Monday, the council approved a new satellite police academy at Uintah Basin Applied Technology College in Vernal. Tammy Wilkerson, the associate vice president of program development, said police forces in the surrounding counties had asked for a place to train local recruits. The only other options for police forces in that area is to send recruits to the state's main police academy in Sandy 175 miles from Vernal or to another satellite academy in Price 113 miles away.