Jan 11, 2023 - News

Utah police standards appointee on hold over retaliation claim

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Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Utah leaders have halted plans to hire the Wasatch County sheriff to head the state office that investigates police misconduct after a video showed him threatening an officer who filed an internal affairs report against a supervisor.

What's happening: The state Department of Public Safety has indefinitely postponed the appointment of Sheriff Jared Rigby as director of its Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) unit, FOX 13 reported.

  • A FOX 13 investigation last year uncovered a video showing Rigby telling a Heber City police officer his "perception was wrong" when the officer reported that his chief, Dave Booth, used excessive force when Booth grabbed the suspect by the throat during a March 2021 arrest.
  • Rigby warns the officer, "You can dig in your heels," but it will put future promotions in jeopardy.

Why it matters: As POST director, Rigby would oversee the training and conduct of Utah's 9,000 or so law enforcement officers, as well as the investigation of scores of misconduct complaints each year.

Details: In November, when the state announced Rigby had been appointed as the new POST director, the use-of-force complaint against Booth was still under investigation — and as of Monday it still hadn't been completed, FOX 13 reported.

  • A Heber City sergeant also filed a witness intimidation complaint against Rigby, but POST did not investigate because it is outside the scope of investigations it is authorized to handle.

Of note: Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson told FOX 13 he didn't know the specifics of the open investigation and he wasn't aware of the video of Rigby until after he announced his appointment.

  • Yes, but: The video has been featured in news coverage and viewable on FOX 13's website for more than a year.
  • The POST council — which Rigby was serving on when he was appointed — recommended him for the job, and his appointment was approved by Gov. Spencer Cox.

The latest: Anderson said the video is "certainly concerning" and canceled Rigby's swearing-in, which was scheduled for Monday morning.

  • DPS officers will continue his pre-employment background investigation and report their findings directly to Cox, who will decide whether Rigby will be sworn in, a DPS spokesperson told Axios.
  • Rigby has already stepped down from his elected position as Wasatch County sheriff, as well as another job working for BYU's police department, in order to take the pending position with POST. He remains a licensed attorney in Utah.
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