Salt Lake Police Chief Michael Chabries terminated one of his officers Friday following an investigation of alleged misconduct.
Officer Dennis Nelson received the letter of termination from the chief Friday morning. Chabries confirmed that he fired Nelson but referred further questions to the city attorney's office.City attorney Frank Nakamura said the termination stemmed from a "serious question of the exercise of his good judgment." He declined to comment further because he said he expects Nelson to appeal.
Nelson was suspended with pay approximately six months ago following an incident that occurred while he was working as a desk officer at the Salt Lake Public Safety Building.
A "mentally unstable" woman came into the police department to make a complaint that she felt her car was going to be vandalized, said Salt Lake Police Union President David Greer.
The woman apparently spoke about suicide and Nelson became the woman's "listening post," he said. Nelson accompanied the woman to her home, where he took a nap on the couch and left the next day.
The woman wanted to know if she and Nelson were friends. He assured her that they were and gave her his home phone number. The woman later reported that Nelson had intimidated her into letting him into her home, Greer said.
He emphasized, however, that the woman alleged no sexual misconduct, despite rumors to the contrary that have been circulating among fellow officers. "That never was alleged and never was part of the complaint," he said.
But Nelson apparently filed no police report as required by department policy.
"He made a mistake by dealing with her on a personal level instead of an institutional level," the union president said. "He ended up hurting more than helping."
The department's Internal Affairs unit investigated the incident and the findings were given to his division commander, Capt. Shirley Whit-worth. She recommended to the chief that he be terminated.
Greer said the chief fired Nelson on the basis that he violated written policy. "Officers are required to behave with the public and have contact that inspires the public trust," he said.
"We're going to appeal it to Civil Service Commission. We don't think the case merits termination."
When contacted by the Deseret News, Nelson declined to comment about the case.
Nelson was also involved in a dispute in September 1989 involving him, his wife and a fellow Salt Lake police officer. Nelson went looking for the other officer, who was having a relationship with his wife. During the dispute, a confrontation occurred and several police officers were called to keep the peace.
Nelson rammed another officer's car, let the air out of the tires of his wife's van and refused to surrender his weapon to his superior, according to testimony during a Civil Service Commission hearing.
The confrontation continued the next day at the Nelson's Murray home, where police were called to calm a fight between the couple. Murray police have responded to his home on several occasions since. Many have been domestic disputes between him and his wife, who has since divorced him and married the other officer.
Nelson was suspended following the September 1989 incidents and was subsequently given low-profile duties, including working shifts at the department's front desk.