Davis County sheriff's deputies, fatal shootings and $862 hotel bills

Sunday , October 08, 2017 - 4:30 AM3 comments

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

When a Utah police officer takes a life, that officer goes home to recover from the trauma of a violent act.

Except in Davis County.

In Davis County, a sheriff’s officer involved in a fatal shooting is sent to a luxury hotel in Deer Valley. Or at least to a hotel in Salt Lake City.

  • RELATED: “Paid hotel stays for police after shootings an uncommon practice”

Sheriff Todd Richardson considers a hotel stay vital to an officer’s well-being in the aftermath of a deadly encounter. Virtually no other sheriff or police chief in Utah follows the same protocol.

Which legitimately calls into question Richardson’s management of taxpayer money.

Auditors found that after a fatal 2015 shooting in Syracuse, Richardson sent two deputies to Salt Lake City. Their hotel stays cost a combined $307.

  • RELATED: “Audits of Davis County Sheriff Office reveal time card fraud, $862 hotel stay”

Then, following a fatal shooting Aug. 3, 2016, in Clearfield, auditors discovered Richardson had his staff book a deputy two nights at a luxury suite at Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. The room cost $862.

Richardson called it a fluke. An outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake City made rooms difficult to find, he said. A hot tub suite in Deer Valley was his only choice.

“We probably spent more money on senior officers’ time” attempting to find a cheaper room, he told Mark Shenefelt, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.

Motels line Interstate 15 between Farmington and Ogden. None charges $431 a night, according to a quick Google search.

If his intent was to stash his deputy away from prying family and media for two nights, Richardson overspent by about $700.

Travel spending is his prerogative, Richardson said. Davis County Clerk-Auditor Curtis Koch agrees, but he also points out that under county policy, spending nearly $1,200 to put up three deputies in area hotels is questionable.

Richardson simply doesn’t care.

“There is not enough understanding of what it feels like to pull the trigger on someone,” Richardson said. “All they (auditors) know is the dollars.”

Other sheriffs know, however. So do police chiefs. And with one possible exception, they don’t send their officers to hotels after fatal shootings.

“We have not ever sent anyone away or paid for a hotel or anything after a deadly force encounter,” said Lt. Nathan Hutchinson, spokesman for the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.

Aaron Kennard, executive director of the Utah Sheriff’s Association, said he “would not presume” to second-guess a sheriff. Still, Kennard said, he’s never heard of putting deputies up in hotel rooms after shootings.

Kenard previously served as sheriff in Salt Lake County, where officers involved in shootings received “all the help needed,” he told Shenefelt. “We’d put them on paid leave and make sure help was available 24-7, but we did not restrict their movements.

“My own personal feeling, being a cop for 40-plus years, the environment most conducive to recovery is family, friends and their natural environment,” he concluded.

One department does occasionally put officers up in hotels — the Ogden Police Department.

“We do not have a policy,” Capt. Danielle Croyle said in an email. “We have rented a room locally to have officers stay during the initial phase” of an investigation, she said, but it “depends on each circumstance.”

Counties establish spending policies to ensure efficient and ethical government. Auditors make sure county agencies adhere to those policies. By accusing auditors of only caring about “dollars,” Richardson shows contempt not only for Koch, but for the voters who elected him and the taxpayers who fund his department.

Essentially, he argues that he’s above question.

But he’s not. Not after making it a policy to send deputies to hotels after fatal shootings, when it isn’t standard Utah practice.

And not after spending almost $900 to put up a deputy at a luxury ski resort.

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