Two Of The SLCPD’s Most Senior Officers Are Being Investigated Since Last Summer, but the department does not want the public to know this. Two lawsuits, involving SLCPD captains, began last summer. Criminal probes were conducted in both situations. Only Chief Mike Brown and his four deputy chiefs have more authority than an SLCPD captain.
Some have questioned why Chief Brown applies “different rules for different officers” because the department has refused to address either inquiry or admit its existence.
Two Of The SLCPD’s Most Senior Officers Are Being Investigated Since Last Summer
The police at the airport is under the command of Captain Stefhan Bennett. He was dining at the Porcupine Pub and Grille in Cottonwood Heights on July 1, 2022, with a foreign acquaintance. The friend’s passport was in the car when the bartender requested identification. She claimed that was the moment Captain Bennett snapped.
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“Guinness was in his glass. I had never offered him one before,” the bartender said. He’s usually a really kind guy… I turned the corner and he shouted, “What you’re doing is extremely ****ed up. I just thought I was doing my job. Well, you’re doing your job wrong.
Captain Bennett is reportedly a well-known “regular” at the restaurant who visits “maybe once a week,” according to the bartender.” The bartender recalled, “He said, ‘I’ll remember that, and next time, if I see you outside of here, just wait and see what happens to you. Investigators also spoke with the restaurant’s manager.
Hey, I’d just like to get your side of the story about what just happened there, I remarked as I approached him, the manager added. “I don’t have to ****ing tell you ****,” he said. Simply put, I’ll take care of this.
The workers claimed that following the fight, Captain Benentt’s friend paid for the beverages and the group departed. The event was reported to Cottonwood Heights Police Department Chief Robby Russo by another officer who just so happened to be there with his wife. At first, Chief Russo was informed that the argument might have been sparked by one of his own police.
Customers believed heads were going to start rolling because of his reputation. One client said, “Oh, this man is dead when Chief Russo gets his hands on it!” You are aware of it! You’re familiar with our chief, said one officer.
Days later, Captain Bennett “contacted other bar employees in an attempt to encourage them to pressure (the bartender) into letting this go,” according to the Cottonwood Heights Police Department’s investigation. From “disorderly conduct” to “obstruction” or “witness tampering,” the criminal inquiry changed.
SLCPD Starts A Case But Silent
As soon as the Cottonwood Heights Police Department launched a criminal investigation, Chief Russo called Chief Brown to let him know. In response, the SLCPD launched an internal affairs inquiry and suspended Captain Bennett. For eight months, the agency has declined to comment on the matter.
On December 8, 2022, FOX 13 News reporter Mythili Gubbi questioned Chief Brown about the criminal investigation of Captain Bennett and the internal affairs inquiry into him.
The chief’s communications director, Brent Weisberg, intervened to stop Chief Brown from responding. Weisberg responded, “No, we’re really speaking to (investigative reporter for FOX 13 News) Adam Herbets about it.
Wait a second… Is there another journalist named Adam Herbets at @FOX13 that I don't know about? pic.twitter.com/we4svkLcV6
— Adam Herbets (@AdamHerbets) March 22, 2023
Can you tell us anything else, please? Gubbi enquired. Chief Brown answered, “No. Weisberg made a bogus claim. The agency replied in an email that it declines to comment on personnel issues. Even the department refused to say whether Captain Bennett is still employed by the SLCPD.
Former Clearfield Police Department detective Kyle Jeffries expressed his confusion over the SLCPD’s lack of openness. Former public information officer Jeffries, who is unrelated to this case, was in charge of interacting with the general public.
He Offered This Advice To SLCPD:
“The better it is, the more information you get out there… You should approach Adam (Herbets) and inform him that this person has been accused of a crime. In the interim, we’ve taken this person off the road while we investigate what went wrong.
The lack of transparency surrounding Captain Bennett’s case contrasts with past internal affairs investigations conducted by the SLCPD. Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Chief Brown have convened news briefings to announce continuing investigations of specific officers, despite the department’s adamant refusal to talk on personnel matters.
Officer Ian Anderson’s and Officer Jadah Brown’s ongoing internal affairs investigations were the subjects of interviews Chief Brown gave to FOX 13 News in 2022.
“I know these officers. These are great officers,” Chief Brown said at the time. “I stand by these officers and what they did that day.” “Our officers we believe did as they were trained,” Mayor Mendenhall said at the time. “We still stand by (the officers) while acknowledging that deeper investigations are taking place.”
The agency said it had put Officer Thomas Caygle on administrative leave and started an investigation in a statement given to FOX 13 News in 2023. At the time, Chief Brown stated, “Our community expects the very best of its police officers at all times, especially when off-duty and on personal time.” Since I’ve reviewed the materials and information I’ve so far gotten, I’m disturbed and dismayed by this situation.
It is “well known” within the SLCPD, according to more than a dozen individuals, that Captain Bennett and Chief Brown “do not have the best relationship.”
We all understand that the chief can make life difficult for you if you don’t get along with them, Jeffries added. According to Jeffries, it is detrimental to departments like SLCPD, the public, and the officer whose reputation is on the line when they fail to communicate consistently. Jeffries responded, “I don’t understand why there would be a problem claiming (Captain Bennett) still works here.
Both Investigations Continue
While the internal affairs inquiry is ongoing, Captain Bennett was allowed to return after being placed on administrative leave for nearly a week. He has chosen not to respond. In some cases, you’re told not to speak to the media and clear your name, Jeffries said. That is simply the way things are. Captain Bennett was interviewed by LaMar Ewell, who recently left his position as deputy chief.
I didn’t believe the case from the start, so I questioned it,” Ewell stated. “I don’t believe any policy violations occurred… I attest to Captain Bennett’s integrity. According to Ewell, Captain Bennett was merely speaking with acquaintances who worked at the pub when they called and inquired about what had occurred, which leads him to feel that Captain Bennett is not guilty of “obstruction” or “witness tampering,” as claimed.
According to the report from the Cottonwood Heights Police Department, a prosecutor first balked about bringing a case over the phone. Sim Gill, the district attorney for Salt Lake County, reopened the case as a result of inquiries from FOX 13 News. He expressed his gratitude to us for alerting him about the event.
“We don’t do phone screenings,” Gill said. “We have a team of attorneys whose job it is to review those cases… There’s no record of that (phone call), and for me, having a record whenever you’re making a decision to charge somebody or decline filing charges is really important.” The office said it does not expect to make a decision on Captain Bennett’s criminal case for “several weeks.”
Captain Bennett’s Personnel File
Jeffries claimed that after reading and analyzing the case, Captain Bennett’s disciplinary record stood out as the major concern. 1995 saw Bennett’s first instance of censure for “abuse of discretion.” Bennett was just a recruit at the time. Lieutenant Scott Folsom stated, “You identified yourself as a police officer of this department to add importance to the personal business you were performing.”
“This letter is a written reprimand for your behavior,” it says. In 1996, Bennett was disciplined for making “unprofessional contact” while not on duty. The allegation, according to Captain Marty Vuyk, “claimed that you made threats of police reprisal over an event that took place while you were off duty and had no validity for official police action.”
“I have determined that the punishment will consist of a letter of reprimand and four hours of police ethics training… This is the second letter of reprimand you have received over your use of police authority, and I want to remind you that your job with the Department is on probation.
Bennett got into a fight with someone in 2009, citing the personnel file, at a restaurant after getting carded even though he didn’t order any alcohol. Bennett reportedly said: “It takes a lot of balls to ask an on-duty police for his ID,” according to the employee.
The police department has a video of Bennett ranting and swearing at another officer in 2010. He received punishment for “inconsiderate and disrespectful behavior towards a subordinate.”
“I find your behavior in this matter reflects poorly on your judgment and self-control,” wrote Deputy Chief Kenneth Pearce. “Most concerning is this is not the only incident in which your emotions have led to undesirable reactions and interactions.”
After apprehending a 17-year-old from Latin America who was in possession of cocaine in 2011, Bennett was accused of making a joke to another cop. Bennett allegedly said: “You should have taken him off into the desert and shot him in the head,” according to the other officer.
“It is the decision of your administration to reduce this complaint to an M-file (miscellaneous complaint) resolved by your division,” wrote Deputy Chief Rick Findlay. “This matter is considered closed… and will not be reviewed further.” Bennett, at most, got a warning or more instruction in each instance. Bennett hasn’t had a consistent complaint in the last ten years; in their place, he has received numerous accolades and promotions.
Jeffries remarked, “It doesn’t seem like the conduct has altered. While you’re not on duty, you shouldn’t even bring up your job as a police officer… We don’t want any young officers to think that just because they wear a badge, they are superior to others.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office declared that while deciding on the criminal case, it would not take Captain Bennett’s personnel file into account. According to Jeffries, the personnel file ought to have an effect on how the internal affairs case turns out.
I don’t believe that someone should be given a second, third, or fourth chance before being demoted or losing their job, said Jeffries. If the SLCPD does not investigate it further, the police department is also somewhat responsible.
Following the initial story’s publication on FOX 13 News, Chief Brown sent an email to the outlet via his spokeswoman with a statement.
“As Chief of Police, I am committed to responsible transparency in all matters,” he wrote in part. “Ensuring personnel issues are consistently, fairly, and thoroughly investigated is of paramount importance to me, department employees, and the public we serve.”
Chief Brown could not explain why the handling of the public disclosure of material pertaining to these two cases differs from that of other cases. As opposed to that, he said that “the disclosure of some material or the giving of facts about a case in the middle of an active investigation could potentially threaten the trustworthiness or credibility of that procedure.”
According to Jeffries, government organizations must at the very least make information that is public record available to the general public. This would involve letting the public know when a worker is on leave or whether they are still employed by the organization.
Chief Brown and Mayor Mendenhall have frequently held press conferences or given interviews concerning officers who are the subject of internal affairs inquiries, as was previously mentioned in this report.
Captain John Beener
Criminal authorities also looked into the second incident, which involved a different SLCPD commander. The case of Captain John Beener revolves around a charge of fraudulent car registration. On Wednesday at nine on FOX 13 News, we will discuss the information we have learned about that case.