Sandy • If you’re considering a career in law enforcement, Maj. Scott Stephenson wants you to know that police forces across Utah are hiring.
“It’s absolutely amazing how many vacancies” there are, he said Wednesday.
Stephenson directs the state police academy in Sandy. On Wednesday, he told the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) that the latest figures show there are 8,148 active peace officers in the state.
Utah, at one point, had about 8,800 peace officers, Stephenson said. Why local and state law enforcement in Utah and elsewhere are losing officers is a debate that has raged across the country. Low unemployment and protests against police often are blamed.
Lt. Wade Bruer, who oversees training at the academy, told the council that the academy classes for the first half of 2018 are technically full. But the academy may try to squeeze in a few more cadets if a sponsoring police department or sheriff’s office has someone who is ready to enroll.
The rest of Wednesday’s POST agenda didn’t alleviate the vacancies.
The council disciplined five active or now-former officers accused of misconduct. One of those was Justin L. Jones, 29.
Jones was a South Salt Lake police officer when, according to a presentation Wednesday, he drove his personal car home while drunk. Other police officers found him passed out behind the wheel in his driveway. He resigned from the police force and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of impaired driving. He served two days in jail and was sentenced to a year of probation and a $1,420 fine.
“I have taken responsibility,” Jones said Wednesday. “There will be consequences of my actions.”
Jones appeared before the council to ask for leniency. He pointed out he has been forthcoming about what he did, continued appearing for court to testify in criminal cases and has undergone treatment for substance abuse.
He said he wants to return to law enforcement. The council, however, voted to impose a standard one-year suspension of his police certification, meaning Jones can’t work as a police officer — even if a department hires him — until that suspension is complete.
The council also heard from Rodrigo Esteban Toledo, formerly of the Daggett County Sheriff’s Office. He worked in the jail and failed to report it when he saw another corrections officer use a Taser to stun inmates who agreed to be stunned in order to receive favorable work assignments and other benefits.
That and other transgressions against inmates led to a criminal investigation that resulted in a criminal conviction against the sheriff, other jailers and the removal of state inmates from the jail.
Toledo entered a plea in abeyance to official misconduct, a misdemeanor. Daggett County terminated him.
“Failing at that has disappointed a lot of people in my family and me,” Toledo told the council.
Toledo received a three-month suspension.
Other discipline cases Wednesday:
— North Salt Lake, Richard Hendricks, received a 2 1/2-year suspension for soliciting sex from prostitutes.
— St. George, Kyser Christensen, received a 1 1/2-year suspension for falsifying his timecard when he was supposed to be on duty at the airport.
— Unified Police Department, Robert Snell, received a 1 1/2-year suspension for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.