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Ex-SWAT deputy files $1M suit against Davis County over discipline settlement

Thursday , June 07, 2018 - 5:00 AM

FARMINGTON — A former Davis County sheriff’s deputy has filed a $1 million civil suit alleging the county broke an agreement to keep secret some of the disciplinary proceedings against him over his misconduct in a SWAT incident.

The 2nd District Court suit, filed May 21 by Clint Douglas Shaw, accuses the county of violating the terms of a 2013 confidential settlement.

The suit said Shaw later applied for police jobs in Salt Lake and Summit counties, but he was not hired because the disciplinary documents were placed in his personnel file, contrary to terms of the secrecy agreement.

RELATED: 2 more sheriff's deputy harassment cases made public in Davis County

Michael Kendall, a Davis County deputy attorney in the civil division, said Tuesday the county had no comment on the suit. Local governments usually do not comment on civil suits.

Shaw was on a SWAT team Feb. 26, 2012, in Centerville that confronted an armed, suicidal man barricaded in an apartment.

After the man emerged from the apartment and several officers took him into custody, Shaw left his post nearby, approached the suspect and made “derogatory statements,” according to court records.

Documents said Sheriff Todd Richardson disciplined Shaw because the deputy was “spinning things up with verbal altercations, which resulted in the creation of havoc rather than decompressing the situation.”

In a disciplinary notice to Shaw, Undersheriff Brent Peters said Shaw’s actions agitated the suspect, requiring the arresting officers to use unnecessary force to subdue him.

Shaw also was accused of lying during the subsequent internal investigation, and Richardson served notice that Shaw would be fired.

However, Shaw obtained an attorney and appealed the firing. A county merit commission overturned the firing, saying the allegation of lying was not proven, but the board said some form of discipline was appropriate.

As Shaw returned to duty, Richardson suspended him for one day without pay, ordered six months’ probation and removed him from the SWAT team.

In 2013, after Shaw returned to patrol duty with restrictions, a different attorney representing Shaw filed a suit alleging employment discrimination and mistreatment. The suit was settled out of court, resulting in a confidentiality agreement that would make it possible for the deputy to successfully move to another law enforcement agency.

The agreement, approved by the county commission, required the county to remove from official documents all references that “suggest and-or imply that Shaw was dishonest, untruthful, misleading or not forthright … or used excessive force.”

It also mandated that the county attorney’s and sheriff’s offices write letters to be placed in Shaw’s personnel file acknowledging that the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council dismissed a case against him that had been opened involving the SWAT incident.

The agreement said Richardson’s letter must state that disciplinary actions against Shaw “do not implicate that he was dishonest” during the internal affairs investigation.

Further, “The County will not disparage Shaw to potential employers or make statements to them that could reasonably be construed to question or criticize his integrity.”

Under the agreement, the county also paid a $5,000 settlement to Shaw.

Shaw’s new lawsuit said that in April 2016, after he failed to obtain other law enforcement jobs, and other Davis sheriff’s deputies were promoted over him, he checked his personnel file. He found 12 unredacted documents related to the SWAT case. The suit also said the required letter from Richardson was not in the file.

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During the county merit board hearing in 2012, Richardson had argued that his decision to fire Shaw also was justifiable because the 11-year deputy had seven other reprimands in his record, including admonishments for neglect of duty, misconduct at a public meeting and two at-fault accidents.

In a supporting document filed in district court, county attorneys said Richardson’s handling of other deputy misconduct cases in the same time frame demonstrated consistency.

A deputy found sleeping on duty got a day off without pay, while a deputy who shot out the tire of a fleeing suspect got a day off without pay and probation. A deputy who improperly used a county computer received two weeks off without pay and probation.

Two other deputies resigned under threat of firing. One was responsible for three missing cases of training drugs and the other used county email to damage another deputy’s marriage.

County Human Resources Director Debra Alexander said Tuesday Shaw resigned his deputy job on June 23, 2016.

In response to a records request, POST said there were no “sustained” actions against Shaw on file. Any remaining records relating to investigations are protected from public release under state law, the agency said.

Nate Nelson, a Salt Lake City attorney representing Shaw in the suit, did not respond to a phone message.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEMarkShenefelt.

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