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Home / Articles / Archive / News & Columns /  Feature | Final Shot: Salt Lake Police fired Rob Joseph nine years ago. He?s not about to get over it. Page 4
News & Columns

Feature | Final Shot: Salt Lake Police fired Rob Joseph nine years ago. He?s not about to get over it. Page 4

By Ted McDonough
Posted // December 16,2008 -

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n“He Was a Good Cop”
nWhen the Salt Lake City Police Department took Joseph back in early 2000 after the assault charge was dismissed, it was on condition that Joseph undergo a “fitness for duty” examination by a physician the city would hire. Following an interview with Joseph, a review of his personnel file and a memo from City Hall reporting other officers were “concerned that Joseph is near the point of taking out his anger in a violent manner” the physician came back with a diagnosis: Joseph had an Axis II “personality disorder with paranoid and narcissistic traits.” Joseph was ruled unfit for duty and fired.

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A state panel at the Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing that screened the malpractice complaint Joseph filed against the doctor would later rule the diagnosis could not have been made based on such a limited examination. The diagnosis was for a longstanding disorder. Yet the psychological exams Joseph took in applying for the SLCPD and Utah Highway Patrol in 1997 showed no such problems.

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Joseph got some additional props over the years. POST let him keep his badge in November 2000, finding that Joseph acted within Utah’s use-of-deadly-force law. In 2003, a state district court judge ordered Salt Lake City to pay Joseph’s legal fees incurred defending his criminal prosecution.

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But as with all his other court battles, Joseph’s malpractice lawsuit was thrown out of court when a judge ruled the physician who examined him was working for the city and “owed no legal duty” to Joseph. Psychiatrist David McCann stands by his original diagnosis, telling City Weekly, “It was the best professional report I could do.”

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Despite the trouble he’s caused the city, Joseph still has some friends at the SLCPD—though none who are willing to say so publicly. One officer, who spoke to City Weekly only on condition his name not be printed, says, “There’s no doubt [Joseph] got railroaded. They got away with it, too. What happened to him was bad, but no one there was willing to stand up and fix it. It was a justified shoot, and they just found ways around it. He was a good cop.”

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/Back in the ’70s, NYPD narcotics officer Frank Serpico was shedding light on police officers taking bribes from drug dealers. Joseph says his campaign is more nebulous: a fight against the “old boys’ network”: the impulse of power to cover its butt rather than “do the right thing.”

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“I’m not exposing bribes, but I don’t see the difference. A lie is a lie. It’s about the public trust. The goal is the truth.”

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If SLCPD offered him a job tomorrow, Joseph says he would seriously think about it. But his fight ceased to be about the job long ago. Originally, Joseph says he battled so hard because, “I felt I couldn’t get on with life until it was over.” Now he realizes this is his life—he has become Serpico, a permanent crusader.

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He has tried to set up a police-watchdog group. He helped investigate the lawsuit brought by the widow of a man who died in police custody while wrongly suspected in the headline-grabbing 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. He has been an occasional behind-the-scenes conduit for newspaper stories about small police scandals.

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“I’m kind of just a pariah” Joseph says in a lingering Australian drawl, a hint of an impish grin coming to his face.

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On Jan. 16, 2008, Joseph received a letter from the Grand Jury Panel of Judges saying that the Salt Lake County Sheriff had reported back the results of his investigation into potential crimes associated with Joseph’s firing:

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“The panel believes a thorough, professional and complete investigation has now been conducted. … Based on that investigation the panel has determined there is insufficient evidence to warrant further action in this matter.”

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But getting shot down once again won’t stop Joseph. He has already set his sights on his next target: current occupants of Salt Lake area government he now believes impeded the grand jury panel’s investigation.

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Joseph’s unending crusade causes some to roll their eyes. T. J. Tsakalos at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office says he can’t imagine Joseph can still be upset with the DA, noting that a judge dismissed the county as a defendant in Joseph’s lawsuit long before current District Attorney Lohra Miller was elected.

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“Why would [the current DA] get involved in a conspiracy years later?” Tsakalos says. “It kind of boggles the mind.”

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/Joseph says he’s never looked back, never asked himself what life might have been like had he decided against pursuing a drunken driver while he was off the clock. “There’s no point even thinking about it. I believe life experiences define who you are and give you a mission,” he says. All it took to make him realize that mission was a little tough love from TV host Dr. Phil.

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In desperation this year, Rachelle Joseph telephoned the TV show, seeking Dr. Phil’s intervention. Joseph exposed himself to an on-air emotional wringing and the doctor got him thinking positively. The TV shrink challenged Joseph: What can a person do as an outcast cop? Joseph’s answer: Become a cop-corruption crusader.

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The Dr. Phil appearance didn’t land Joseph a job selling police uniforms, as he had hoped. But it did get Joseph a literary agent who is now shopping a book tentatively titled, The Betrayed: State of Corruption: The Officer Joseph Story.

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Joseph says Serpico has agreed to write the forward. Still to be determined is which Baldwin brother will play Joseph in the movie. tttt

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 27,2009 at 04:15 What is laughable is that everyone involved in this case was proven wrong except for Joseph, yet he is the one paying for their mistakes. I think the city should be bankrupted paying Joseph back. I think he should own that whole city!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 27,2009 at 04:07 It is so funny that a judge dismissed the mal-practice lawsuit because the officer didn’t pay for it.... So, it’s who PAYS that wins out, huh judge???? So, you get enough corrupt judges together, then you gotta win out in the long run, is that it? This story is a joke and Salt Lake City is worse than Chicago, New York and Los Angeles combined!!!!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 21,2009 at 15:19 I will be sending this article to every Leo and non-Leo I know. Also, if traveling in the mid-west, I will be sure to avoid SLC and Utah all together.nnWhere was the state AG and the Utah State Police? Why wasn’t a state investigation opened as soon as the initial bogus reporting came to light?nnAnd the Feds don’t mind visiting local police departments down here when they think something is amiss... Thankfully, that has been few and far between.nnThe locals (in Virginia) and the VSP look like poster candidates for the perfect Leo after reading this story. nnThis officer deserves to be Leo in a state that appreciates its law enforcement. The state of Utah should be ashamed for looking the other way during such a travesty of justice at the local level.nnIf the SLCPD is going to treat one of their own this way - what would they do to a visiting tourist....Thanks, but no-thanks - this civilian (related to Leo’s) isn’t about to find out.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 21,2009 at 06:32 It is sad to see how we are treated by the very departments that demand we do more with less, demand aggressive enforcement of laws, and as soon as a complaint, valid or not, we are tossed to the wolves. I hope the officer involved has filled criminal conspiracy and individual charges against all memebers of the department involved in the deception and coverup with the federal authority. nnnnI am a firm believer in doing all so called cops, brother officers who work in IAD who commit , assist, or cover up this type of behavior. They will do anything to garner favor with the bosses for personal gain, or prevent being transferred to the street. They need to be removed and a message sent to all others that that type behavior will not be tolerated by us.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 16,2009 at 20:58 I commend Joseph for sticking to his guns.. I don’t believe i could sit back and take it neither. Honestly they say is supposed to be the best policy. I’d want fellow officers and fellow citizens of Utah or any other city for that matter to know the TRUTH....I would like to know whose protecting and serving my community!!! The criminal openly admitted to soooo much guilt and he apparently walks away a happy cat..Where’s the justice??? He was intoxicated and had warrants for his arrest and uses his vehicle as a weapon. I believe I would have done the same thing..If this officer wouldn’t have done his job who knows who the criminal would have killed. At the end of my shift I want to be able to go home to my family as does any other good officer. It’s quiet apparent this is a story on an officer doing his job to the best of his ability and gets absolutely NO backing from his upper brass or the criminal justice system. If all the facts were on the table there should be NO question.. This was an officer doing his job..nI’d back ya 100%.

 

 
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