It has taken us a little time, but based on our research the Messenger supports Mayor Paul Bailey’s termination of Robert Hill as Moroni police chief.
Without question, Chief Hill has a lifelong record of public service. As a young man, he was an active-duty soldier serving in a special Washington, D.C.-based unit of the U.S. Army. He spent nearly a decade working part-time or full-time for the Utah National Guard. During that time, he served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was a corrections officer in the Salt Lake County Jail and the Sanpete County Jail.
Even a Moroni citizen who, in an interview with the Messenger, was deeply critical of Hill’s performance as police chief, said Hill had helped him out personally when he had a death in his family.
The problem is that a police officer must be calm, measured and restrained in his or her responses to all manner of tense situations. When on duty, a police officer cannot be influenced by stereotypes or personal prejudices, such as a belief that so-and-so is a “criminal” or is “mentally ill” or that illegal immigrants should not be in the country.
Chief Hill did not pass those tests. In at least two instances, he severely manhandled women who, if they did anything wrong at all, committed very minor infractions. Neither woman posed any threat to the chief.
Meanwhile, at least three residents complained to Mayor Bailey or on Facebook about being profiled and stopped repeatedly. One resident believed Chief Hill targeted him for traffic stops because a family vehicle had a Mexican flag attached.
Another resident, who has lived in Moroni most of her life and who is the adult daughter of a former mayor, says she doesn’t know why Chief Hill stopped her, or her and her husband together, 15 times in 18 months—yet never issued a ticket.
As Mayor Bailey, who has spent 28 years himself as a Utah Highway Patrol trooper and Sanpete County sheriff’s deputy, said in an interview with Fox News, a person can have a 20- or 30-year career in law enforcement “and lose it in 5 minutes” if he or she loses control and uses excessive force.
That’s a standard we must uphold in Sanpete County, where we have a proud tradition of restraint that has run for more than 20 years. In that time, no officer in our county has ever killed or wounded a suspect or, as far as we can determine, ever fired his or her gun in the line of duty. Let’s keep it that way.
Mayor Bailey says he did not make the decision to dismiss Chief Hill on his own. He consulted with the city attorney and with law enforcement professionals outside the county.
Since the chief’s termination, Bailey told the Messenger he has received text messages and talked face-to-face with city council members. The tenor of their communication has been, “We did the right thing.” We agree.