Process for Suspension or Revocation of Peace Officer Certification
In 1983, the POST Council recognized the need for Law Enforcement to govern its own. With the advice of the Council POST began developing a program that would enable POST to investigate misconduct by Utah Law Enforcement Officers and make recommendations to the Council for disciplinary action. Developing a process that would work for Utah was complicated. POST worked in unison with the Attorney General’s Office to write the rules and implement the law necessary to make a workable program. The POST Council reviewed proposals and protocols monthly for over a year. Eventually, a process was developed and implemented. Some changes have taken place over time and great strides have been made to preserve the reputation of the profession and to protect the rights of the individual.
When POST Begins an Investigation
Utah administrative rules state that POST may initiate an investigation when it receives information that may be grounds for the suspension or revocation of a peace officer’s certification under Utah code 53-6-211(1). The initial allegation may come from any reliable source. The following procedures will apply if POST receives applicable information and determines the information to be trustworthy.
Notification to Officer That They Are Under Investigation
As soon as the investigation is opened and an investigator assigned, the officer and the chief administrator of the officer’s employing agency will be notified by mail that the investigation is open and active.
How Investigations Are Conducted
The POST Investigation staff is committed to conducting fair, impartial and professional investigations. Investigators will interview the involved officer, witnesses and other involved persons as appropriate. A departmental internal affairs investigation may be considered in the POST investigation but will not be the sole source of information for the POST investigation.
Procedures Following Completion of the Investigation
After the investigation is completed, the POST administrative staff will review the investigation and determine a proper course of action.
1. POST finds no cause for action. In this case no action is taken, the individual officer and the officer’s department will be notified by letter that POST has completed its investigation and finds no cause to take any further action.
2. POST finds cause for action. In this case the officer and the officer’s department are notified of POST’s intention to seek suspension or revocation of the peace officer’s certification.
Commencement of the Adjudicative Proceedings
A Notice of Agency Action is sent to the individual officer. The Notice of Agency Action sets forth the allegations and is signed by the POST Director. At the same time, the individual is also sent a Consent Agreement. The Consent Agreement is based upon the disciplinary guidelines adopted by the POST Council and gives the officer the opportunity to accept the recommended sanction rather than pursue an Administrative Hearing. If an individual chooses not to sign a Consent Agreement and wants a hearing, a hearing will be conducted before an Administrative Law Judge.
Review Before the POST Council and Issuance of a Final Order
If the Administrative Law Judge determines there is sufficient evidence to support the allegation, or the officer has signed a consent agreement, the case will be presented to the POST Council. The individual officer or their attorney may appear before the council when their case is considered. The Council may accept or reject the sanction listed in the disciplinary guidelines and can issue any alternative sanction the council deems appropriate. When a majority of the Council recommends to suspend or revoke a person’s peace officer certification, or to take no action against the person, the Council Chairperson will prepare and issue a final order within 30 days of the Council’s decision.
Officer’s Right to Surrender Certification and Avoid Adjudicative Proceedings
Utah Code 53-6-211.5 passed by 2010 legislature provides that a peace officer may voluntarily relinquish their certification when a disciplinary issue regarding the peace officer has been referred to POST. If an officer voluntarily relinquishes their certification all investigative and adjudicative procedures immediately cease. A peace officer who voluntarily relinquishes their certification under 53-6-211.5 may not thereafter be certified as a peace officer in the state of Utah.
Time Required To Complete The Process
Many factors determine how long the process may take including, complexity of the investigation, cooperation of the involved officer and witnesses, and whether or not an administrative hearing is held. It is possible to take up to a year or more before a case can be completed. The process is careful to protect the individual’s due process rights.
One Last Thought
The POST administrative staff and the POST Council constantly strive to balance compassion for the individual officer with the duty to protect the law enforcement profession and the public’s trust. The POST staff sees this investigative process as a solemn responsibility that is necessary to protect the rights and privileges of our citizens and our peace officers alike.