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Provo police officer on paid leave after alleged misconduct at school

Published May 4, 2012 3:58 pm

Birthday celebration • Officer's attire, behavior at school staffer's party in question.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Provo Police Department confirmed Friday that it has launched an investigation into alleged misconduct by one of its school resource officers.

Provo police Lt. Mathew Siufanua said the probe comes in the wake of a complaint involving an incident that occurred about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Provo High School.

"A Provo School District official … advised that a Provo police officer may have been involved in inappropriate behavior while on duty as the school resource officer. The alleged misconduct occurred at Provo High School when the officer participated in a birthday celebration for one of the school's employees," Siufanua said.

The purported misconduct was described as "the officer wearing inappropriate attire and engaging in inappropriate behavior that, if true, directly violates our policy, high expectations of professionalism and department ethical standards," the lieutenant added.

Siufanua said the officer's actions were not believed to have been illegal. Asked specifically if the alleged activity involved a "strip tease," Siufanua said he would not describe it that way — but he could not discuss further details pending a departmental investigation.

The officer, whose identity was not released, has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the probe.

In a statement issued Friday, Provo Police Chief Rick Gregory, alluding to his department's past image woes stemming from officer misbehavior, expressed concern over the latest allegations.

"We have worked very hard to overcome past perceptions of our department. We have also worked very hard to gain the trust and respect of the citizens we serve," he said. "While this incident has the potential to drag us backwards, I am confident that the hard work of our department coupled with the many great things we do each day and our swift and serious handling of this incident will help us to maintain the support and confidence of our community."

Gregory's predecessor, Craig Geslison, stepped down in January 2011 in the wake of the city's hiring of an independent auditor to scrutinize the department's operations and, specifically, misconduct by three Provo officers.

In December 2010, one Provo officer pleaded no contest to reduced misdemeanor charges after he allegedly held a gun to his girlfriend's head, and another officer pleaded guilty to fondling a woman during a traffic stop. Earlier in 2010, a third officer resigned under pressure after he was accused of stealing prescription pills from a Provo home during a 911 call.

remims@sltrib.com