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By Ben Winslow
Deseret News

SANDY, Utah - Questioning the guidelines used to discipline law enforcement officers for misconduct, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder asked the agency that certifies law enforcement officers to consider an individual officer's circumstances.
"On several occasions, our recommendations have deviated from what the POST matrixes indicate," he told the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council last week.
Winder's remarks came at Thursday's quarterly meeting, in which 18 officers were either suspended or had their badges revoked for misdeeds ranging from drug possession to sexual misconduct or lying to investigators.
Winder said his agency's internal affairs officers conduct lengthy investigations that often delve into an individual officer's situation.
"In our organization we have a policy to provide rehabilitative assistance, especially as it relates to drug and alcohol usage," he said.
Under POST, he said, that policy is negated. A corrections officer busted for DUI received a two-year suspension, the council decided Thursday. An American Fork police cadet caught on duty with alcohol in her system had her badge revoked.
Winder worried that POST's guidelines could create an "underground allowance," with people afraid to seek help or report problems because they could lose their badges.
POST revamped its disciplinary guidelines last year. Under the matrix, all felony convictions, drug possession, custodial sexual misconduct and a third DUI are automatic peace officer certification revocations. Mitigators and aggravaters are considered no matter what the offense.
The POST Council has the option of ruling against the guidelines. Some disciplined officers have raised challenges to the rigid guidelines, including two who spoke to the POST Council on Thursday.
"I'd like to apologize. I know this is a huge black eye to all of us," said Casey Alton, a former Emery County sheriff's deputy who was given a four-year suspension for sexual misconduct. "I love this work. I want to come back."
Alton asked for a two-year suspension so he could try for another job in law enforcement. The POST Council didn't budge.
"I guess it stands, Casey," Cache County Sheriff Lynn Nielsen told him after the vote was taken. "Sorry."
Winder wants a police agency's recommendation to be part of the POST Council's discussion as it hands out discipline. Police chiefs in the past have showed up to council meetings to back an officer, but Winder worried about how that would be perceived by his deputies.
POST does keep in regular contact with agencies during an investigation, and some council members worried about being independent from a police department's internal affairs.
"It is vital and essential this council maintain a ferocious independence," said Ken Wallentine, the Utah attorney general's chief of law enforcement.

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