Ex-reservist sues the police
An ex-Park City Police Department reservist, described by another officer as an inept lawman who had trouble with everyday police tasks like pulling over speeders, has sued City Hall, claiming his 2004 firing violated his civil rights.
Ciro Darelli, whose national origin is Uruguayan, claims in a lawsuit filed in Third District Court at Silver Summit that the Police Department discriminated against him because of his ethnic background. He was held to different standards than other officers, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit brings six counts against the government. Also named as defendants are Police Chief Lloyd Evans, Lt. Phil Kirk, City Manager Tom Bakaly and Bill Morris, described as the coordinator of the department’s reserve corps.
Darelli wants back pay and other monetary damages.
"It’s not a bogus shot in the dark," Darelli’s attorney, Steven Wall of Salt Lake City, said. "It’s not an incompetent officer."
In early January, the Justice Department allowed Darelli to proceed with the lawsuit, his side said in a court filing.
In the lawsuit, Wall describes a series of incidents between Darelli and other officers, alleging that police recruits called him ‘Tattoo,’ after the character on the television show "Fantasy Island."
The police described him as having a "fixation with writing tickets" but Darelli issued the citations after being told to do so by the department, the lawsuit claims.
On March 7, 2004, the lawsuit alleges, the police allowed two men to go free after the department had received a noise complaint. Darelli had confronted the men initially, smelled alcohol on one of the man’s breath and observed crushed cans in the car, which turned out to be energy drinks.
Another officer who responded let them go without tickets for having an expired car registration and violating noise regulations, the lawsuit said. Darelli on March 12 was reprimanded for the March 7 incident and that day requested in an e-mail to meet with Evans "to complain about the discrimination and hostility shown towards him," according to the lawsuit.
On March 15, Kirk gave Darelli what is described as an ultimatum that Darelli could resign and be given a favorable recommendation or he would be fired, the lawsuit claims.
Almost two months later, on May 7, Darelli’s side claims that Evans told him, "he does not fit in the department."
"He seemed to be singled out," Wall said, describing Darelli as an "easy target to assail" because of his ancestry and his accent.
But in an e-mail from officer Steve Hirzel to Kirk on March 19, 2004, Hirzel is brutal in his assessment of Darelli’s police skills. The e-mail was included as evidence in Darelli’s lawsuit. In it, Hirzel charges that Darelli did not understand police fundamentals like pursuing a speeding driver.
Hirzel said Darelli drove in the right-hand lane even though officers normally drive in the left-hand lane so U-turns are easier. While they were in the right lane, an oncoming driver was clocked at 77 mph on S.R. 224, which has a speed limit of 55 mph.
Hirzel said they had to wait for cars to pass before turning around and when they started the pursuit, the speeder was "way ahead of us." The e-mail said Darelli then drove too slowly to catch the motorist.
"Darelli was slow on the gas and we (were) traveling well under 77 MPH. I pointed out the basics of time/distance and explained that in order for us to catch a car doing at least 77, we would have to go faster than 77 MPH, or much faster than we were currently going," Hirzel said in his e-mail.
When they caught the driver, Darelli bumbled his way through the traffic stop, Hirzel said.
Later that night, Darelli told Hirzel that their vehicle’s ‘check gauge’ light was on, Hirzel said it might mean it needed gas but Darelli did not stop, according to the e-mail. The vehicle then ran out of gas in Prospector while they were helping the Utah Highway Patrol search for a person who had fled from a trooper, the e-mail said.
" . . . Darelli lacks COMMON SENSE, a quality which I, nor anyone else, can teach him," Hirzel wrote, saying that Darelli, "exhibited none of the qualities I would consider desirable and necessary in a police officer."
Darelli is currently a reservist in the Draper Police Department, his attorney said.
Kirk on Thursday declined to comment about the case.
Park City Attorney Mark Harrington said City Hall had not been served with the lawsuit. In a statement, Harrington said the government follows federal and state laws when considering personnel decisions.
"The city takes all employment matters very seriously, particularly those involving the Police Department due to their contact with the public and importance to the safety of our community," Harrington said.
Darelli said in an interview that he sees himself as a stellar officer, rating himself, "maybe 10 out of 10, 9 out of 10" and saying that "nothing’s wrong with my training . . . my performance was great."
He disputes Hirzel’s assertion that he let the vehicle run out of gas and said his driving skills are strong because before entering law enforcement he drove trucks and buses.
"You known when you’re being discriminated and they are making fun of you," he said.
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