PAROWAN — The police chief of Parowan has been charged with two misdemeanors in connection with the killing of a dog, according to the city's mayor.
Mayor Donald Landes said he believed the charges were related to the shooting last July of a loose dog that Chief Preston Griffiths had determined to be "vicious."
Griffiths, 43, was charged last week in Iron County's 5th District Court with official misconduct, a class B misdemeanor, and obstruction of justice, a class A misdemeanor. He was served Friday with a summons to appear in court March 22.
Millard County prosecutors are handling the case to avoid a conflict of interest. Their investigation was apparently prompted by a complaint from the dog's owner, but the mayor said they may have gone too far.
"In a small agricultural community, where you've got animals, sheep and horses, you're always going to have a conflict with dogs," Landes said. "This was a mistake, and unfortunately it's getting blown out of proportion, I think."
The shooting involving Griffiths did not stem from livestock being threatened, he said, declining to provide further details.
According to the mayor, the city reviewed the matter and disciplined Griffiths, though he would not say how the chief was punished. The Utah Council on Peace Officer Standards and Training also investigated the incident but took no action, Landes said.
Griffiths did not return a phone call to the police department. He has been Parowan's police chief since July 2003.
As of Monday evening, Griffiths was still the active police chief and had not been placed on leave, Landes said.
The small city has wrestled with its animal control policies since January 2010 when a resident shot two dogs he said were harassing his sheep. Landes said the city asks residents to call police before killing a dog. The city can put down a dog after it's caught running loose three times, but no case has gone that far, he said.
With just the chief and three other full-time officers, Parowan police have few resources for animal control. Yet Griffiths told the City Council last July, just three days after the incident, that 40 percent of his department's calls dealt with dog complaints, according to meeting minutes on the city's website.3 comments on this story
Griffiths suggested that the city's municipal judge — his father-in-law, Kenneth Adams — impose more than the typical $100 fine for a loose-dog citation, according to the minutes.
Adams, who has sat on Parowan's Justice Court bench for 35 years, was reprimanded by the state Judicial Conduct Commission last year for handling cases investigated by Griffiths — including several loose-dog citations — without informing defendants of their relationship, though the commission noted no one had complained of any bias.
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