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Iron County jail guard Raydon K. Madson was spending a lot of time visiting with one particular inmate - so much time, according to investigators, he was neglecting other duties.

When the woman was released in June 2003, she and the guard met at least twice for oral sex, according to court and police records.

The relationship appeared consensual, but that didn't matter. With the first intimate contact, Madson broke the law.

He was eventually convicted of a misdemeanor "custodial sexual misconduct" offense and lost his police certification.

Madson's case is not unique.

Sexual misconduct by peace officers occurs frequently in agencies throughout Utah, from metropolitan police departments to rural county sheriff's offices, from the state Highway Patrol to the Department of Corrections.

It is the most common reason - more than excessive force, falsifying reports or driving under the influence - that Utah officers lose their certifications or are suspended from their jobs, according to a Salt Lake Tribune review of Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Council records.

The offenses include rape; attempted sodomy; child sex abuse; and having sex with inmates, parolees or people on probation.

Some recent examples:

* Two Washington County jail guards had sex with incarcerated women. Both pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor counts of sexual relations with inmates.

* A South Salt Lake officer pleaded guilty to sexual battery for improperly touching dancers at a saloon.

* A Davis County deputy resigned after being investigated for having a sexual relationship with a woman on probation.

* A Millard County deputy had a sexual relationship with an inmate while he was assigned to the county jail.

All of the officers' police certifications were revoked this year.

Over the past 15 years, the number of officers forced out of the profession or suspended for such incidents has climbed.

The Tribune analysis of POST records showed that of 94 peace officers whose certifications were revoked between 2000 and 2005, 43 were accused of sexual misconduct.

During the same time period, another 22 were suspended for the same reason. The suspensions ranged from six months to four years.

A review of another 1,000 disciplinary cases handled by the POST Council between 1991 and 2003 showed that 212 - or 21 percent - involved a sexual offense, such as rape or sex with a consenting adult in a patrol car.

That number dwarfs the number of excessive-force complaints - eight - that POST investigated during the same 12-year period.

"It has ballooned in the last couple of years, and it's alarming to us. We're very concerned about the trends," said POST Director Rich Townsend.

About 30 percent of the cases POST investigates are handled administratively and are never prosecuted criminally. The offenses, while considered a violation of police ethics, don't always fit neatly into the state's criminal codes, Townsend explained.

Other officers never appear in court - or before POST - because a small number of police chiefs and sheriffs strapped for staff deliberately fail to report their own investigations into officer misconduct, Townsend said.

Administrators may be afraid of losing an employee in whom they have invested thousands of dollars and training, he said. They also may fear ruining their officer's chances of finding work in another department.

"Law enforcement needs to be concerned," Townsend said. "Law enforcement administrators better wake up and be concerned because, again, so much hope is placed in the integrity of the profession."

The rash of recent police officer misconduct prompted one Logan City Council member to ask Townsend whether law enforcement was in a moral crisis.

"My response to that was, 'I hope not,' '' he said.

'Ripe environment' for misconduct:Davis County's jail guards are trained at the Fred House Academy prior to employment and have ongoing training throughout their careers, said Kevin McLeod, chief deputy in the county Sheriff's Office.

Sex with inmates, and the warning signs a guard is becoming susceptible to it, are covered on an "almost weekly basis," he said, and the guards are warned that, to the inmates, they are considered a "trophy," giving inmates bragging rights.

Still, Davis County had four documented cases of sexual misconduct from 2002 to 2005, which resulted in the guards' certifications being suspended or revoked. One of those cases was of a guard who had consensual sexual contact with a co-worker at the jail, McLeod said.

That guard was transferred to a civilian job.

In most of the cases, the guard and inmate developed a romantic relationship that would be considered conventional, were it not in a jail.

"They become friends," McLeod said. Guards "get to be where they forget about that boundary that they're an inmate and we're the corrections side of it. They just get too close. They get to feeling sorry for them."

Jails and prisons are a ripe environment for sexual misconduct, said Joanne Archambault, a retired San Diego police sergeant who worked nine years on the sex-crimes unit and is now the executive director of End Violence Against Women International.

Men and women are in close proximity all day long, she said. Some of the officers, most of them men, may be struggling with marital problems at home. Many of the incarcerated women have been abused and are vulnerable.

"It is a very high-risk situation," she said.

McLeod doesn't know whether a pre-employment psychological evaluation would help identify personnel who would be inclined to commit sexual misconduct. In Davis County, new hires are required to take polygraph tests that include questions about sex crimes.

"I wish I knew how to prevent it. I wish I knew what the answer was," McLeod said. "I can deal with that predator, but how do we - I don't know any other way to put it - how do we keep them from falling in love?"

Love was an allegation in a guard scandal earlier this year at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County. When investigators questioned a female inmate there about her sexual relationship with Sgt. Charles Mrkvicka, she said she loved him, according to a police report.

The report also says the inmate was playing with a necklace during her questioning. When detectives pressed her on where she obtained the necklace, she said Mrkvicka gave it to her.

When police interviewed another former Purgatory inmate about her relationship with jail guard Brian Stubbs, she said she believed they fell in love and Stubbs said he would quit his job for her, according to a police report.

Stubbs and Mrkvicka pleaded guilty earlier this year to felony and misdemeanor counts of sexual relations with inmates. They were sentenced to about 120 days in jail and three years of probation.

A third former Purgatory guard, Michael E. Ballard, also is charged with a felony count of sex with an inmate. That case is pending.

Even a sheriff was recently investigated.

The FBI looked into allegations earlier this year that Beaver County Sheriff Kenneth Yardley had a sexual relationship with a jail inmate and that inmates remodeled Yardley's home while they were supposed to be incarcerated. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

For police officers on the beat, there are occasional offers or opportunities for sex, said Ogden police Sgt. Troy Arrowsmith, who is an official in the police union.

Arrowsmith - who said he has been propositioned several times himself - said the offers don't usually come from a person looking for special favors, but rather from people who "just like guys in uniform."

The trouble is, he said, most of the people whom officers encounter are related to a criminal element. Therefore, personal involvement with them can put the officers in compromising situations.

"Sometimes, if you dance with the devil, you become the devil himself," Arrowsmith said.

But Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe, a former member of the POST Council, said officers are rarely offered sex. Fewer still would accept an offer, he said, because so many police cars have cameras in them now. Keefe said he has no indication sexual misconduct is a big problem for Utah police officers.

"Let's face it. Some just betray the trust that's been given to them by society."

Few warning signs: Two elements are necessary for sexual misconduct, said Kim Lonsway, director of research at End Violence Against Women International.

"The first half of the equation is, Who is the person? The second part of the equation is, What is the environment?"

People who are sexually aggressive are more likely to accept violence, and act out in hyper-masculine and hyper-sexual ways, she said. Inappropriate sexual jokes at work, for example, and not respecting a person's personal boundaries can be the first warning sign that an officer may engage in sexual misconduct. Equally important is opportunity, Lonsway said.

"You have to have an environment that encourages or condones or looks the other way and makes it possible," she said.

Members of a research team at California Polytechnic State University studied 63 newspaper stories of police sexual misconduct that occurred over a period of six months, providing a glimpse into the types of behaviors and people involved. The alleged incidents took place across the county, in both police departments and sheriff's offices, and involved a variety of behaviors.

But patterns began to emerge:

* Common locations of incidents included the person's home, a police car, a police station or a secluded area such as an alley or dirt road.

* Most incidents involved line officers, though a few cases involved higher ranking individuals, including a police chief.

* Most of the officers did not know the other person.

* Most incidents took place on duty.

* Some officers had previous complaints of sexual misconduct and additional people came forward as a result of news media coverage.

While an agency can't change an officer's street environment, the agency itself can change, Lonsway said.

"Absolutely, the situation [working on the street] is ideal in some ways for creating sexual misconduct, but it's unlikely there aren't going to be warning signs," she said.

Supervisors and co-workers can play an important role in preventing sexual misconduct by being attuned to those warning signs.

"[The officers] don't generally see what they're doing as wrong. They're likely to brag or tell someone about it," she said.

Karin Montejo, a division chief and formerly the major over the Miami-Dade Police Department's sex-crimes unit, investigated multiple cases involving officers who sexually assaulted people both off and on duty, as well as family members.

"We have people who would go back to victims to help them and use that type of ruse - 'I'm here to make sure you're OK,' '' she said. "We had people on midnight shifts that had a lot of free time on their hands."

In one case, a Miami-Dade officer pulled over a woman who was, by her own admission, drunk. After talking with her, the officer drove off the road and into a warehouse parking lot. The woman followed the officer into the warehouse, where they eventually had sex.

The next morning, the woman told her friends, who reported the incident to the FBI. The officer was charged with sexual battery.

Another Miami-Dade officer who responded to a fight between a boyfriend and girlfriend later visited the woman when she was alone. After she had too much to drink, the officer sexually assaulted her, on duty and in the woman's house, Montejo said.

In many of the cases, the officers defended themselves by claiming the sex was consensual.

"It's hard to say it's consensual," she said, "when you have a gun and a uniform and a police car."