Moab City Police Officer Steve Risenhoover was placed on administrative duty last week while an investigation into his conduct during a December 2020 incident is ongoing.
Salt Lake City’s Fox 13 released body camera footage of Risenhoover’s response to a Dec. 21, 2020 call regarding suspected domestic violence at a Moab home. In the footage, Risenhoover interviews the couple whose arguments prompted the police call, and they separately report there was no physical altercation. Risenhoover later reaches into the jacket pocket of the man involved in the arguments, and finds ziplock baggies of methamphetamines.
On March 10, Deputy County Attorney Matthew Brooks submitted a motion to the Seventh District Court for the case against the subject to be dismissed with prejudice, meaning the same charges cannot be refiled. The motion notes “there are substantial discrepancies between the arresting officer’s report and bodycam footage.” The Moab Sun News submitted an open records request to the Moab Police Department for the incident report, which was denied. The formal response to the record request said the documents are considered a “Protected Record at this time.”
The Deputy County Attorney’s motion to dismiss also notes that “the arresting officer illegally searched the Defendant’s person.” The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. At the time that Risenhoover searched the defendant’s pockets, there did not appear to be any evidence of criminal activity to justify a search.
Moab Police Chief Bret Edge said the department has received a formal complaint about the incident. No one currently on the Moab Police Department staff is qualified to conduct internal investigations, he said, so the work has been outsourced to the West Jordan Police Department.
Risenhoover has been investigated by third party authorities before. In 2016, the State Bureau of Investigation opened a case on Risenhoover when it surfaced that he owed large sums to the IRS because of years of failure to pay taxes. Risenhoover eventually came to a settlement agreement with the IRS to resolve the matter. Several other allegations against Risenhoover made that year were not sustained, though then-County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald wrote in a 2017 letter to then-Police Chief Mike Navarre that he considered Risenhoover’s court testimony questionable.
Current County Attorney Christina Sloan supported Edge’s decision to keep Risenhoover on the force, in light of the fact that no allegations against Risenhoover related to dishonesty were sustained.
Edge said that depending on the findings, the current investigation could have a range of outcomes.
“If the allegations are sustained the potential disciplinary actions range from a verbal warning to termination, which are the potential outcomes of any investigation into member misconduct,” he said, noting that the consequences are governed by police department and city policies. If the allegations are not sustained, there will be no disciplinary action, the chief said.