MORONI—For most of almost 18 months as police chief, Bob Hill appeared to be Moroni’s golden boy. He says when he asked for feedback, Mayor Paul Bailey told him, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
During January, he says, Bailey told him three different times when they ran into each other in the Moroni City Hall, “’You’re doing an amazing job. We’ll try to get you a $3 per hour raise.”
He was scheduled to give a presentation to the Moroni City Council at its February meeting about what he had done during 2021, including number of arrests, responses to domestic violence calls, drug stops, DUIs, etc. Then he was going to outline his needs in 2022, including bringing on a second officer for the town.
Then, on Feb. 18, he was fired. The action fits Bailey’s pattern, Hill says. Moroni has had four police chiefs and four treasurers just over four years. “If someone disagrees, or says something Paul doesn’t like, he fires the person.”
Bailey, who has been in law enforcement for 28 years as a Utah Highway Patrol trooper and, currently, as a Sanpete County sheriff’s deputy, says Hill used excessive force in two cases, both involving women with mental health issues. The mayor told Fox 13 an officer can have an exceptional record, yet blow a career in five minutes if he makes a bad judgment or loses control.
For his part, Hill says he got his first glimpse at Bailey’s style when he was finishing two months of training out of town for the chief’s position. The city council had approved a lease on a new police truck, including outfitting it with a siren, flashing lights and a back seat cage.
Hill called the leasing company. He was told the truck had been sent to a company called Vehicle Lighting Solutions for installation of the police equipment. When he called the second company, he was told, “We have your order here, but it’s not been paid for yet.”
Hill called Bailey and asked about getting payment. “He came unglued on me,” Hill says. “He said, ‘We don’t have the money for this.’” The problem, Hill contends, is that the mayor had spent the police-truck budget on other projects. Hill says Bailey told him to call Vehicle Lighting Solutions and cancel the order. But the company told him, “We have got a contract.” The new chief got the new truck.
However, the vehicle was never equivalent to the vehicles Sanpete County sheriff’s deputies use. It had no radio and no dash cam. Hill says he relied solely on a “personal radio” attached to his uniform to communicate with dispatch.
The city actually had a radio in stock, and a sheriff’s deputy with knowledge of radios had offered to install it in his truck at no charge. “I asked Paul,” Hill said. “He said, ‘Nope.’”
No video record
One question that has come up since Hill was fired is why the incidents that led to his dismissal weren’t captured on video. In October, 2021, Hill says, a power surge knocked out the computer at city hall containing the software for downloading digital pictures from both surveillance cameras in the building and his body cam.
At the time, he had a body cam. But when the memory filled up, he couldn’t download the footage, nor access any pictures downloaded previously. “The same applies to all the cameras in the building itself,” he says.
The city’s IT specialist was getting ready to fix the computer containing the software. “He was told ‘no.’” Hill says. “Paul didn’t want the computer. He didn’t want to spend the money. And the sad part is, insurance would pay for it.”
Hill says he took a “proactive” approach to policing, an approach the mayor questioned during the Fox News interview. The former police chief didn’t simply respond to calls from dispatch, he says. He watched out for anything out of the ordinary—and looked into it. He also put a lot of focus on educating the public.
One of his goals was to slow down Main Street through Moroni. That involved making a lot of traffic stops, mostly to hand out warnings. The week of Thanksgiving, when he stopped younger drivers, he told them, ‘I can either give you a citation, or you can call your parents right now and tell them five things you’re grateful for.”
“My job is to gain compliance,” he says. If a college student calls her mom to tell her she’s been pulled over by a police officer and needs to tell what she’s grateful for to avoid a ticket, the parent and student are going to discuss the incident later. And the student won’t forget the lesson learned.
“Last semester at Snow College (fall 2021) was the first semester in recent history that we haven’t had a single fatality or critical injury of a student…between Chester and Fountain Green,” Hill says.
In his interview with the Messenger, Hill described going beyond the call of duty in all kinds of cases. Once, he picked up a homeless man while on patrol. Bailey advised him to drive the man to Juab County and drop him off at a gas station. Hill says he did take the man to Juab County, but got a hotel room for him and paid for it personally. He learned the man had a social worker. He called the social worker.
Two main cases led to Bailey’s decision to terminate the police chief. The first happened in October 2021 just after the computer containing the camera software was damaged.
Floralyn Martinez, who suffers from panic attacks, went to city hall to talk about a delinquent water bill. She says she thought she was supposed to meet with the city council member who oversaw culinary water. But no council member was there.
Martinez says Hill got between her and the city treasurer, pushed her forcefully against a wall, then pushed her to the floor and put handcuffs on her so tight her hands started turning blue. That triggered one of the worst panic attacks she has ever had, she says.
Hill’s story is that the city treasurer called him after speaking to Martinez on the phone. He says when Martinez first came into the building, she was calm, but it wasn’t long before she raised her voice and started swearing at the treasurer.
“It’s not the job of employees to listen to cussing,” Hill says. “I told her, ‘I’m giving you a lawful order to leave the building.’” He says he put his hand on her elbow to try to escort her out of the building. He says she started swinging at him with her other arm.
“My training is to do exactly what I did. I had one arm. That’s what they teach you. As soon as I had my hands on the first arm, she started screaming. I called for backup. I had her against the wall. I was able to get her on the ground, [with] no injuries and I was able to get cuffs on her.”
When Steve Grey, former Moroni police chief, now Fairview police chief, arrived as a backup, Hill says he offered to step out to his truck parked outside the building, where he wrote Martinez a citation for disorderly conduct.
Martinez says that’s not the way it happened. She says it was Grey who told Hill to go to his truck.
Martinez complained about her treatment to Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), a state police disciplinary agency. That triggered an investigation by Mayor Bailey. He talked to Martinez, Hill, the treasurer and a witness. One outcome was that the mayor directed that Martinez be given a no-trespass order. If she came into city hall again, she could be cited for trespass.
Hill says most people would not consider his handling of Martinez to be use of force. “She was resisting,” he says. “She needed to be detained because she was out of control.”
The other case that apparently led to Hill’s termination involved a family who had been homeless in Juab County but who had finally found a house in Moroni. Hill says he pulled the mother over for speeding. He found she had no insurance, was driving on a suspended license, and had arrests warrants against her from Juab and Utah counties.
Because the car didn’t have insurance, Hill says he was required to impound it. But he figured if she had been homeless, she might not have received the notices that led up to the warrants. So he only warned her about those. She got out of her car and walked home.
That night, he got a call to the family’s new house. “She had a significant laceration on her head” and her teenage son looked like he had a broken arm. Hill bandaged the woman’s head and called an ambulance.
He talked to the woman’s husband who said a medicine cabinet had fallen off the wall onto his wife and son while the family was moving in. He said his wife was bipolar. But now she had a terminal illness and the medication for the illness interfered with her medicine for bipolar disorder.
“So I had two episodes, back to back” with the family, particularly the mother, Hill says.
On Feb. 13, Super Bowl Sunday, Hill parked on Main Street to patrol for DUIs. He was on a traffic stop when a truck drove by, slowed down and then took off. An hour later, the same truck drove by, slowed down, then made a sharp turn up a side street.
“I thought, OK, this might be a DUI,” Hill says. “I followed him through two more turns [and] very fast driving.” The driver didn’t signal for the turns.
He stopped the car. He says as he approached the vehicle, the driver started spewing profanities. He noticed the driver wasn’t wearing seatbelts.
Hill told the driver, “You didn’t signal, your vehicle shows expired registration, your windshield’s cracked and your rearview mirror is broken.”
That when the driver asked, “Do you know who my dad is?” And that’s when he recognized the youth as Mayor Paul Bailey’s son. The young man continued, “Do you know what professional courtesy is?… Next time you need him to back you up, we’ll just see what happens.”
Hill says ordinarily he would have given the youth a warning. But because of his profanity and threat, “He talked himself into a citation.”
“Is it a gamble to give the mayor’s son a citation?” he asks. “It should not be.”
Two hours later, while patrolling on S.R. 132 near the Moroni City Cemetery, Hill noticed a car with the front windshield smashed in. “Like baseball-bat smashed, caving in,” he says. “That got my attention.”
He tried to stop the car. He used lights, his siren and changed the siren tones. Finally the vehicle stopped. It was the same woman who had been involved in the episodes a few weeks earlier.
“She had warrants,” Hill said. Besides the previous warrants from Juab and Utah counties, she had a new one from Moroni City Justice Court because, while the car now had insurance, she had never paid a fine the court handed down for driving without insurance. “Plus she still had a suspended license….It [had] been suspended for a long time.”
You’ve got to go to jail
Hill says he told her, “I warned you last time…This time, you’ve got to go to jail.” That’s the right call for any officer, he says.
The woman got out of her car and walked to the rear of the vehicle saying, “I can’t go to jail.” Then suddenly, she tried to get back in the vehicle. Hill says he couldn’t let her get back in because he didn’t know what might be in the car.
“I was able to get handcuffs on her, and I thought, ‘We’re done.’” He called for backup. But he says the woman started running into the road and toward 55-mile-per-hour traffic. He was afraid she might be trying to commit suicide by cop.
“It’s a fraction-of-a-second decision. I’m not going to let her go. I got her down on the ground. I stood out in traffic so people could see me. Several cars stopped.”
Hill says he was able to calm the woman down. She sat up and then stood up, all the while saying, “Let me take care of it. Please, please, please.”
A backup officer arrived from Mt. Pleasant. Then the second backup officer arrived. It was Deputy Paul Bailey from the Sheriff’s Office. “He wasn’t looking at me. He wasn’t talking to me,” Hill says.
Knowing the financial situation of the woman’s family, Hill had the car towed but marked it “hold for owner,” which meant the family would have to pay for towing but would not have to pay anything to the impound lot. The woman was booked into jail for the warrants, but bailed out several hours later.
Following the incident, Hill got a call from Bailey. The mayor told him he was suspended with pay, pending an investigation into the Super Bowl Sunday case. Bailey asked him to turn in his vehicle, gun and badge. Hill asked if he needed a lawyer. The mayor said ‘no,’ it was a routine investigation.
Hill told the mayor he knew of some witnesses to the incident. One was his daughter’s roommate at Snow College. Two others who had seen the encounter had contacted him. But Bailey said he didn’t need witnesses.
The next Friday, Bailey called Hill to his office at city hall. The mayor told Hill he had been hired as an at-will employee, which meant the mayor, as executive officer of the city, could fire him at any time for any reason. That’s what he was doing.
Bailey told Hill that Bert Kendall, the public works director, would help him clear his office and walk him out of the building.
“Honestly, I was completely caught off guard,” Hill says. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was hurt. I was offended. I felt betrayed. If I can’t be very careful about what I’m going to say, I shut down. I didn’t say a whole lot.”
Does Hill really think the ticket he gave Bailey’s son influenced the mayor.
“A hundred percent,” he says. “I’ve been told that by everybody.”
Cleary, “something happened” that completely changed Bailey’s demeanor toward him, Hill says. “The only thing that happened was I gave his son a ticket.”
Hill’s wife, Alicia, says, “When Bob gave his son a ticket, he realized Bob was not going to be controlled” and that’s when he decided to fire him.
Hill was in the Utah National Guard for 26 years and has a military pension and lifetime health benefits. He and his wife say they will continue to look for ways to serve the community.