October 31, 2014

Cottonwood Heights: The GRAMA Results are In

Left to right: Brandon Henderson, Jim Stojack (Canyon Inn owner), Lani Roberts (7/11 owner), Byron Lovell (Porcupine Pub owner), Dave Larsen (Lifthouse owner), and Bryan O"Meara (Porcupine Club owner)

Left to right: Brandon Henderson, Jim Stojack (Canyon Inn owner), Lani Roberts (7/11 owner), Byron Lovell (Porcupine Pub owner), Dave Larsen (Lifthouse owner), and Bryan O”Meara (Porcupine Club owner)

In February’s issue of Utah Stories we wrote about how Cottonwood Heights business owners were standing up to their government and police department implementing a “crackdown on DUIs,” which translated into heavy-handed treatment by city police officers.

Utah Stories held an open discussion round-table meeting which was open to the public. 15 people told their various stories about the mishandling of innocent residents. One area dentist, a non-drinker, was pulled over for a turning-lane violation, then harassed by an officer who said he could “smell alcohol” when the man has never had a drink in his life. Another story was from a mother whose son was harassed by officers at an area skate park. The boy was called a “f***ing punk” by an officer when he was inaccurately suspected of drinking in the public park.

It was clear from the stories that these actions go far beyond the level of simply “cracking down on DUIs” — a solution to a nearly non-existent problem. Officers are filling the city coffers with revenue from DUI tickets, many of which are being dismissed in court.

Utah Stories filed a GRAMA request with Holladay City. We reported last month that they had yet to fulfill our request to obtain a simple average. Mayor Cullimore told us that he was very proud of the conviction record of the CHPD, but local DUI Attorney Tyler Aires told us that CHPD was producing more “bogus DUIs” than all other cities in Salt Lake County combined.

We have found that at total of 138 DUIs were issued through Holladay court. These tickets were issued by CHPD, UHP and Unified PD. Cottonwood Heights PD charged 97 out of the 138 total cases. 12 cases were dismissed in court by a Judge for lack of evidence. Based on the comparison with the other two Police Departments in Holladay Court, 18 percent of the CHPD citations did not have enough evidence to prosecute the case; whereas with the other PDs less than four percent were dismissed.

Certainly it’s important to keep our roads safe, but receiving a DUI can cost a person their driver’s license, which can result in termination from a job and cause more people to become dependent on the government for food stamps or subsistence.

There are nine officers and sergeants in CHPD receiving compensation of over $100,000 per year (according to Utah’s Right to Know). This compensation is great for the officers, but the method issuing DUIs to enrich city employees is a disservice to the community and business owners.

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