03/25/2008

Report: Bad cops receive a good cleaning

By Nate Carlisle
The Salt Lake Tribune

ST. GEORGE, Utah - In what might be the largest docket in its history, the state's police board Monday booted or disciplined more than 30 peace officers accused of wrongdoing.

That included action against the former Helper police chief and four Utah County jail officers all accused of sexual misconduct.

The four jail officers were found to have had sex with a female jail employee in the evidence room and other locations in the jail, said the board's investigator, Lt. Steve Winward. All four men, the woman and another male jail employee have already resigned after the affair came to light in the fall.

One Corrections officer, Michael Kingston, had his peace officer certification revoked, meaning he cannot practice law enforcement elsewhere in Utah. A former sergeant at the jail, Mark B. Binks, received a four-year suspension of his certification, while jail officer Michael H. Houck received a three-year suspension and jail officer James B. Collyer was suspended for two years.

The board revoked the peace officer certification of former Helper Chief George Zamantakis for having an affair with a one-time department secretary and then lying about it to state investigators.

Winward said when the affair came to light, it caused a disruption in the small town. But investigators also noted Zamantakis still had the support of the mayor and police department officers.

The board, called the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, adjudicated twice as many cases as normal for its quarterly meeting. Winward said the high number was not the sign of an increased discipline problem in Utah police but rather investigators and the board trying to adjudicate cases that had been ongoing.

"We were cleaning things out," Winward said.

The board meeting is coinciding with the annual conference of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association. One of the conference discussion items for Tuesday is titled "Ethics on the Job: A Continuing Challenge."

The board also revoked the certification of former Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., marshals Fred Barlow and Preston Barlow. The two marshals, who worked in the polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border, already have been decertified in Arizona. They were found to have written to the community's leader, Warren Jeffs, while he was a fugitive, and they failed to answer the questions of investigators looking for Jeffs.

The board issued a four-year suspension to former Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Fred Swain. In June 2006, Swain, who lead UHP's DUI squad, wrecked his UHP car in Draper and was charged with driving under the influence. He resigned from the patrol and later pleaded guilty to alcohol-related reckless driving.

Copyright 2008 The Salt Lake Tribune

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