Salt Lake Police Officer Barry Brown resigned Monday.
Was it because he was a friend of a convict and testified on the convict's behalf? Or was Brown just looking for a change of career?The police administration said Brown, a five-year veteran patrolman, quit because he wanted to seek employment elsewhere.
But Police Department sources and a close friend of Brown said the officer's resignation stems from pressures he received because of his friendship with Galen L. Jonas, who was convicted in April of three counts of theft by receiving.
Jonas, who had Brown run computer checks on property in Jonas' possession, was found guilty of purchasing electronics equipment from an undercover police officer, who represented the goods as having been stolen.
Brown became the third officer in five months to resign or be fired amid accusations of impropriety. In March, a patrol sergeant resigned while being investigated in connection with his relationship with a female subordinate. In May, officer Gary Dean Coonradt was fired after an internal investigation found he had stolen items that he should have booked into the evidence room. Coonradt later pleaded guilty to felony theft and faces sentencing Aug. 1. Other officers have taken early retirement or medical leave in response to allegations of improper conduct.
The terminations have aggravated the Police Department's problem of low manpower, which is causing morale to sink, said several officers, who spoke on condition they not be named.
Maj. Ed Johnson denied the department pressured Brown into resigning because of Brown's friendship with Jonas. Johnson said Brown had not been formally investigated by the department.
"We can't say who you can or who you can't be friends with," Johnson said. "He was happy here, but due to some other commitments he felt he should move on." Johnson said Brown was a good officer, as evidenced by the use of Brown's photograph on a recent recruitment poster.
Brown was vacationing and unavailable for comment this week.
Sources confirmed, however, that the department probably would have tried to discipline or fire Brown over his friendship with Jonas and statements he made while testifying on Jonas' behalf.
Brown testified in April before a 3rd District jury trying Jonas, whom Brown had known for about 11 years. As a favor to Jonas, Brown checked six or seven items on the national criminal information computer to see if any of Jonas' recently acquired property was listed as stolen. The NCIC checks were made in the summer of 1986.
"I checked an air compressor. I checked a TV set. I checked some kind of stereo equipment. It may have been a VCR," said Brown, according to court transcripts.
Defense attorney Ron Yengich argued to the jury that Jonas knew that the property being offered by the undercover officer was not stolen because he knew the person selling it to him was an undercover policeman. Therefore, Yengich argued, Jonas should not be found guilty of purchasing stolen goods.
The jury convicted Jonas of only three out of seven theft-by-receiving charges. An eighth charge of being a habitual criminal was dismissed. Yengich is appealing the three convictions to the Utah Court of Appeals, according to court records.
Sources said Brown's friendship with Jonas has been closely scrutinized by the police administration, apparently angering Brown into resigning.
Brown testified in court that it was difficult for him to testify for his friend.
"I've gotten pressure. . . . I've been called into the captain's office. I've been called into the mayor's office in regard to this situation and my association with Mr. Galen Jonas," Brown testified.
After Jonas was arrested, in August 1986, Brown notified Lt. Marty Vuyk of his use of the computer for Jonas and said he would be testifying in Jonas' behalf.
Though not commenting specifically about Brown's case, Vuyk said it is general policy not to associate with known criminals.
Jonas, 42, has a history of crime that began in the mid-1960s, according to court documents.
Another police officer pointed out that, according to policy, "no (officer) shall disclose confidential information for the gain or benefit of self or others."
Checking something on the NCIC for a known criminal "is not something I would do," Vuyk said.