By Kelly Atkinson
I am executive director of Utah Fraternal Order of Police, a position which I have held for over 13 years, and a former Democratic legislator. Our organization was taken aback by a recent article by Paul Rolly entitled "GOP boss publicly neutral, but privately, well …" (Opinion, Dec. 19) I have known Paul for over 25 years. He is an exceptional reporter, but he didn’t get his facts right on this story.
Bret Rawson’s campaign disclosure report speaks directly to Bret’s character and integrity. Most candidates running for office do not make a full disclosure report until after the election. Candidates take advantage of loopholes and file the pre-election report with the bare necessities disclosed. As a candidate for attorney general, Rawson refused to play this game. He simply disclosed everything to the electorate prior to the special election.
Rolly and the Tribune have championed full disclosure in political campaigns for years. Why then is the Rawson campaign harangued for disclosing everything down to stops at Chick-Fil-A and Café Rio? Yes, the Rawson campaign did use a political consultant, as do most candidates running for office, Democrats and Republicans alike. Rolly can’t have it both ways, saying we need full disclosure in political campaigns and then criticizing a candidate’s campaign when it actually provides complete transparency and disclosure.
The FOP did not support Bret because he is the FOP’s general counsel, as implied by the article. Nor did we support Bret because he has a strong record on important issues like the proper use of force and law enforcement policy, knowledge that anyone aspiring to hold the position of Utah’s top cop should possess. The FOP would have lost an effective and knowledgeable general counsel because Bret would have had to divest himself from all FOP interests. The FOP supported Rawson for attorney general because we knew he would restore trust to the office because he is a man of impeccable credentials and high ethical standards and not a career politician. His refreshing, totally honest disclosure report proves it.
For the record, the FOP does not support a political party. One needs to looks no further than the last election cycle to see that the FOP walks its talk of political neutrality. We endorsed Gary Herbert for governor and Jim Matheson and Jason Chaffetz for Congress because all are strong supporters of police and public protection issues. In addition, Democrat Sim Gill, when he first ran for Salt Lake County District Attorney, asked for the FOP endorsement and received it.
The story gets it wrong when it claims that Salt Lake County GOP Chairman Chad Bennion works for the FOP. He works for Rawson’s law practice, a practice that encompasses more than the FOP, and Bennion was hired by Rawson before Bret became the FOP general counsel.
The story misleads the reader into believing that Bennion organized a rally to protest issues relating to Danielle Willard. The FOP knows he did not. The rally was organized and attended by the families of police officers and others concerned with the lack of training among Salt Lake County D.A. attorneys as it relates to officer-involved critical incidents. The right of police officers to defend themselves is not a political issue. It’s a safety and public policy issue.
So Paul, if you are looking for another soap opera as you claimed in your story, you better stick with daytime TV.
Kelly Atkinson is executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
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