A Salt Lake police officer and two former police employees have filed a petition in the Utah Court of Appeals, asking the court to find out why the police department has failed to investigate leads they say may solve the Wasatch Front slayings of at least four young women in the mid-1980s.

Patrolman Frank Hatton-Ward and former crime analysts Greg Chase and Jon Ilk say they have developed leads that the slayings may have been committed by members or associates of a local street gang.However, the three men say, the police department has not adequately investigated the leads.

"We're alleging they (police detectives) have not done their homework," said attorney Fred Wasilewski, who represents Hatton-Ward, Chase and Ilk in their petition for a "writ of mandamus." Wasilewski filed the petition Tuesday.

Such a writ, if granted, would order Police Chief Michael Chabries, Sgt. Don Bell and detectives Jim Bell and Kyle Jones to appear in court to explain why "they refuse and neglect to interview all material witnesses and investigate said homicides."

Don Bell, Jim Bell and Jones were members of the Salt Lake Homicide Task Force, which was formed in 1986 to investigate the slayings of numerous young women, three of whom - Christine Gallegos, Lisa Strong and Carla Maxwell - were slain by bullets fired from the same gun.

Police officials said that the cases have been investigated, that Hatton-Ward's leads have been sufficiently looked into.

Jim Bell believes that serial killer Paul Ezra Rhoades, who is on death row in Idaho, is responsible for the Utah serial killings.

But Hatton-Ward said he and Chase have interviewed informants who have indicated the killings were committed by members of a local street gang.

The petition alleges that the task force and Chabries "failed to investigate any of the taped statements made by . . . witnesses" that Hatton-Ward developed.

"The action of (the police detectives) is tantamount to bad faith or a clear abuse in the performance of their duties," the petition states.

Wasilewski originally planned to file the petition in federal court but later learned that such an action had to be done in the state courts.

The police department has seven days to respond to the petition. The court then may rule or call a hearing, at which time the petitioners may have to present their evidence on the homicides.