Police Department critic: ‘come on vacation, leave on probation’ | ParkRecord.com

Police Department critic: ‘come on vacation, leave on probation’

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A Wasatch County man Thursday night sharply criticized the Park City Police Department in an appearance before Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council, claiming that the police mishandled what was a suspected drunken driving case involving him.

Bob Vaeth spoke at length about the case during a portion of the meeting when the mayor and City Council take input on matters that are not on the agenda. It was not clear whether each of the elected officials was aware of the case. Police Chief Wade Carpenter said he did not have knowledge of the case until Thursday night.

Vaeth, who lives in Deer Mountain and has lived in the area since October after moving from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, recounted the case, which he said occurred at approximately 8:30 p.m. on March 25.

According to Vaeth, he had been drinking beer before driving outbound on Deer Valley Drive. A police officer stopped him, made the arrest on an alcohol-related count and took him to the Summit County Jail, he said, providing a retelling of the encounter that was unflattering to the police. He spent the night in jail, Vaeth said, describing that it was "very, very humiliating."

Vaeth, a computer programmer, said he has since paid $4,000 in legal costs related to the case. He indicated the Police Department is overbearing and requested that the police not "nanny us." He said doing so wastes City Hall money.

"Come on vacation, leave on probation," Vaeth said, using a lewd word as he questioned the Police Department’s desire to serve and protect.

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He said the Police Department’s staff should be reduced by 50 percent. Vaeth requested City Hall donate $4,000, an amount to match what he said he has spent on the case, to Journey of Hope, a not-for-profit that uses bicycling for the benefit of disabled people. The mayor, though, said it would be difficult for City Hall to donate the money in a tight budget year.

Williams mentioned the option Vaeth has to request the matter be brought to the Police Complaint Review Committee, an appeals panel that looks at the dispositions of complaints made against the Police Department. The panel rarely meets, and it conducts its business behind closed doors to protect the privacy of officers with complaints lodged against them.

Carpenter spoke with Vaeth privately just outside City Hall after the appearance. Carpenter said in an interview he described the appeals panel to Vaeth while they were speaking. Vaeth said in an interview afterward he will consider the option of requesting the panel review the case.

Park City police officers regularly are assigned to traffic patrols, with Deer Valley Drive being one of the busiest streets in the city. Traffic stops of people suspected of drunken driving are commonplace in Park City.

Carpenter said Vaeth’s description of the encounter does not resemble the procedures officers are trained to use in suspected drunken driving cases.

A clerk in the Justice Court at Silver Summit said Vaeth initially faced four charges, including one of driving under the influence of alcohol. Prosecutors dropped the drunken-driving charge in May, according to the Justice Court. He still faces the other charges — each a moving violation. Vaeth’s next court date is scheduled July 28.