No matter how well officers are trained or how much care an agency takes in hiring officers, it’s inevitable: when put in the field, a few of them are not going to have the judgment or temperament to handle high-stress situations appropriately. They are the proverbial “bad apples.” The agencies that hired and trained them aren’t necessarily morally responsible for their errant behavior.
However, once a bad apple has shown his colors, officers who observe the behavior have a duty to report it, and supervisors have a duty to act. Those who choose to ignore, minimize, or cover up such an incident become accomplices. They not only tarnish the reputation of their agency, but undermine the legitimacy of law enforcement and the criminal justice system at large.
That’s why revelations that would-be POST director Jared Rigby bullied officers who reported misconduct by other officers is so disturbing.
In March 2021, Heber City Police Chief Dave Booth responded with other officers to a report of an intoxicated man. Unsurprisingly, the man was not cooperative about getting in the police car. Some officers at the scene reported that Chief Booth put his hand on the man’s throat multiple times in an attempt to get him into the car, which is in violation of policy.
Officer Lucas McTaggart was on scene and did the right thing: he reported the incident to his supervisor. Given that he was reporting potential wrongdoing by his chief, this took incredible courage.
This is where things went from bad to worse.
Rigby, who was then Wasatch County sheriff, investigated the incident. Although Rigby worked for a separate agency, there are reports that he was friends with Booth. If this is true, this would be a conflict of interest, and Rigby should not have been involved in the investigation. Strike one.
During the investigation, Rigby interviewed McTaggart. Video of the interview shows Rigby telling McTaggart his perception is off and threatening his future career prospects. This is completely inappropriate for a law enforcement officer who is supposed to be conducting a neutral, fact-finding investigation. Strike two.
Even though the investigation has concluded, Rigby has refused to comment. Anyone who is going to lead POST, the organization tasked with training and certifying officers and investigating some types of misconduct, should be a champion of transparency. Rigby is not that champion. Strike three.
Public trust in police is waning. This saddens me because almost all the officers I have worked with are service-minded and deserving of respect and support. Unfortunately, it only takes a few incidents like the one described here to erode public trust in police as a group. No wonder Utah’s Fraternal Order of Police has spoken out against Rigby.
Officers and supervisors who attempt to sweep misconduct under the rug or, worse, retaliate against officers for doing the right thing, deserve severe consequences and certainly shouldn’t be put in positions of even greater authority. It is in everyone’s best interest to throw out the bad apples before they spoil the whole barrel.