An administrative law judge recommended decertification of an Ogden police officer for drug problems and has rebuked former police chief Joe Ritchie for his conduct in the case.
The report, issued earlier this month by Administrative Law Judge R. Spencer Robinson, recommends that Officer Brian Johnson's certification be revoked for at least three years. Johnson has resigned effective April 26.The judge found Johnson apparently had been stealing drugs from the Ogden Clinic, where he worked part-time as a security guard.
The judge chastised Ritchie for not pursuing criminal charges in the case and for not publicizing the case.
"This examiner is persuaded the reason for the lack of charges or publicity can be found in the conduct of Chief Ritchie," Robinson wrote. "Should the public become aware of the chief's efforts to protect Officer Johnson, public confidence and trust will be eroded further."
Ritchie resigned last week following a unspecified conflict with City Manager Robert Hunter.
He called the judge's report "an out-and-out cheap shot meant to try to discredit me for trying to help an officer."
Ritchie said Johnson entered into a contract with the department, city and a drug rehabilitation center that the former chief said is designed to encourage employees to come forward with their problems rather than hide them.
The contract called for Johnson to continue treatment, not carry a weapon, perform only desk duty, not have outside employment, be evaluated every 30 days and be subject to random urinalysis.
Robinson's report said Johnson reported for work as a patrolman in an impaired condition in November 1989. Subsequent tests showed he had been using cocaine, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
Johnson volunteered for an in-patient drug treatment program and after an internal investigation was placed on departmental probation for up to three years.
The Utah Police Officer Standards and Training council meets May 21 to accept or modify Robinson's report.
The report said Johnson's problem began in 1982 when he was prescribed cocaine following nasal surgery. In 1987 he began stealing drugs from the clinic to treat a recurring sinus problem.
Ogden Police Capt. A.K. Greenwood said Johnson reported to work in November 1989 and didn't seem himself, but it didn't appear he was drunk or high on drugs. Greenwood said Johnson told him it was blood pressure medication.
A subsequent search of his patrol car revealed drug samples. However, the search was deemed improper and the evidence would not have been admissible in court.
The county opted not to file criminal charges. The officers council learned of the matter through an anonymous telephone call.
Standards and In-Service Bureau Chief Earl Morris phoned Ritchie, who told the investigator he believed the incident was properly handled.
Ritchie said he was upset over the fact that the council would initiate an investigation over an anonymous call.
Robinson determined in his report that because Ritchie confirmed the problem in a phone conversation with Morris, the officers council legally could do an investigation.
The report praised the officer's efforts while at the same time seeking to pull his badge.
"This examiner concludes Officer Johnson's laudable efforts, and apparent success to date, at rehabilitation are irrelevant as a matter of law to the issue of decertification," Robinson wrote. "Though the result to him might seem harsh, the issue here is the integrity of law enforcement."