SALT LAKE CITY — Two former law enforcement officers are in court arguing the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council may have acted unconstitutionally when it disciplined them.
Retired Davis County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kenneth Hammon, of Syracuse, received a letter of caution from the council in January for striking a jail clerk in an impromptu kickboxing demonstration.
An administrative law judge recommended a two-year suspension of his peace officer certification, ruling the incident constituted assault and recklessness, but the council chose a lesser penalty.
“As a peace officer, it is important to remember your professional and personal conduct is a matter of constant scrutiny,” the caution said, according to documents filed with the Utah Court of Appeals. “Therefore, your employment as a peace officer requires exemplary behavior because of the professional ethical standards and the risk of liability.”
Hammon’s attorney, Rich Willie, soon after filed a challenge against the POST decision with the Court of Appeals.
Another disciplined officer represented by Willie, Kevin Fuller, of West Jordan, has filed an identical appeal in tandem with Hammon’s.
Fuller also received a more lenient penalty than recommended by an administrative judge, but he too decided to appeal in court.
Investigators said Fuller improperly amended a seized-property report after a burglary victim came forward years later to ask about an expensive stolen vase.
Fuller also lied about the report, investigators said, but he told the council his actions were innocent and due to a memory lapse. The administrative judge recommended his certification be revoked, but the council reduced the discipline to a four-year license suspension.
In the appeal that is now before the Court of Appeals, Willie is asking the panel to rule on the following questions:
• Were the POST administrative law judge’s findings against Hammon and Fuller supported by substantial evidence when viewed in light of the whole record?
• Whether the POST Council erroneously held it did not have authority to review the administrative law judge’s recommendations.
• Whether the state law on which the judge’s conclusion is based is unconstitutional.
• Whether the POST judge erroneously interpreted or applied the law.
A Davis County human resources investigation of Hammon stemmed from a July 1, 2017, incident in the jail’s medical bay. The clerk said Hammon told her to hold still and he struck her on the right side of her chest so hard that it “knocked the air out of her and mucous out of her nose.”
The clerk told investigators she is an epileptic and has a nerve stimulation device implanted in her chest. She “got a migraine instantly” and a jail nurse gave her ibuprofen and an ice pack.
HR investigators concluded that Hammon “has demonstrated an ongoing pattern of conduct of striking employees inappropriately and calling it training.”
Officials were considering whether to terminate Hammon when he decided to retire.
Hammon testified to the “minor” encounter and said the strike was identical to a technique he has taught to hundreds of people in self-defense classes during a 27-year police career.