ST. GEORGE — A record 35 cases of police officer misconduct were brought before the agency that certifies and disciplines officers.

The majority of the cases the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council dealt with on Monday involved sexual misconduct, prompting POST's newly appointed director to suggest more ethics instruction to officers and cadets.

"Officers think, 'That's not happening,' when in fact it is," POST executive director Scott Stephenson told the Deseret Morning News. "We're hitting ethics really, really hard."

As they ran down the long list of officers facing sanctions, many council members took a hard-line stance. In some cases, they rejected what they believed were lighter suspensions.

"Whether it's one time or repeated times, I really think we have to send a strong message that that type of behavior is intolerable," said Utah Department of Corrections director Tom Patterson, when reviewing the disciplinary actions against four Utah County sheriff's deputies involved in a jailhouse sex scandal last year while on-duty and off-duty.

The deputies received suspensions ranging from two to four years and have resigned their jobs.

Helper Police Chief George Zamantakis' peace officer certification was revoked over allegations of sexual misconduct and lying to POST investigators.

"It's misconduct with a former secretary," said POST investigator Steve Winward, adding that the chief was accused of lying to them when questioned about it.

The former police chief signed an agreement to have his badge revoked, POST said. The council noted that fellow officers and Helper's mayor sent letters in the chief's defense.

The council revoked the peace officer certifications for ex-Hildale/Colorado City town marshals Preston Barlow and Fred Barlow. The two were accused of refusing to answer investigators' questions about the whereabouts of then-fugitive Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs. The marshals have since resigned.

POST also issued a four-year suspension to Fred Swain, the former head of the Utah Highway Patrol's anti-DUI squad who was charged after being involved in a drunken driving crash in 2006.

As Norton kept reading the long list of cops facing discipline, local officers who came to watch the proceedings were seen shaking their heads in disappointment. Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds struggled to explain what's happening, especially with so many sexual misconduct cases.

"I think one of it is the hyper-sexual nature of our society," he said Monday. "I've always said people like men in uniform. It's hard to say ... "

Part of it is a hyper-aggressiveness of the POST Council.

"We're not going to sit on these cases anymore," said Rich Townsend, a deputy director for the Utah Department of Public Safety. "Whether or not it's leaning toward criminal charges, we're going to move forward."

Members of the POST Council will meet in executive session in the coming months to review the disciplinary guidelines, which were revamped last year in response to complaints about discrepancies in how cops were punished for misdeeds.

Townsend, who was POST director when the guidelines were passed, said they should be considered a work in progress.

"A year ago, a DUI would generally get about a year (suspension) or letter of caution," he said. "Now it's two years or more."

A suspension beyond two years is considered in law enforcement circles to be a career-ending decision.


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