Local organizations regroup after Ken Johnson arrest

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta and commanders Jerry DeLong and Bill Leonard said there is no chance they will ask the court for leniency in sentencing if former detective Ken Johnson is convicted in his ongoing felony case.

"For me, it's somewhere between zero and zero," Vanatta said of the chances he would put in a good word for Johnson. "Are you familiar with the phrase 'burning bridges?' He blew up all his bridges."

The chief told the Craig City Council and local media during separate meetings Tuesday that evidence uncovered against the former detective has jarred the entire police force.

Johnson resigned in early September and was arrested later that month.

On Oct. 2, the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed three felony charges against him: attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony; as well as accessory to crime and embezzlement of public property, both Class 5 felonies.

All charges relate to a sexual relationship Johnson is accused of having with local woman Tausha Merwin while he was a police officer and member of the All Crimes Enforcement Team drug task force, and alleged crimes that occurred during that replationship.

"This has had such far-reaching implications on our agency, not only from public perception, but internally with people who were very, very good friends of his who he lied to right along with everybody else," Vanatta said.

"That trust is all shattered. So, I think internally, you've got a whole bunch of people who are going, 'God, who do we trsut?' If you can't trust your best friend, who do you trust?"

That said, police officers have not let issues surrounding their former colleague affect their working relationships or their duty to the community, the chief added.

"I think in this particular case, it's really not so much a hindrance because everybody is so angry with Ken," Vanatta said. "They all understand he lied to everybody here. We're all embarrassed. What we told them all is we have a job to do. We had one bad person here. We're going to recover. We need to keep acting professionally, do our job professionally."

Evidence collected by the District Attorney's Office that led to Johnson's arrest also raise concerns about internal policies of a variety of local organizations related to law enforcement.

Vanatta said the Police Department has started to address some issues, such as the ACET computer system.

Johnson is suspected of deleting and altering ACET evidence records pertaining to a case against Merwin. A special forensics lab in Centennial is examining the equipment to try to determine if there is proof of who changed the files.

If the lab concludes Johnson tampered with the files, there could be additional charges filed in his case, Vanatta said.

However, the chief added he doesn't know if there is much chance for concrete evidence because the ACET computers were not set up to track specific users.

Law enforcement has spent $3,000 to install a new recording system so all ACET users and their actions are kept on file, Vanatta said.

In the specific case of Merwin's records, the District Attorney's Office had the original files and the missing information was restored.

The Police Department also plans to coordinate a new agreement with the Moffat County Probation Department regarding Drug Court.

The police code of conduct states officers should not associate with convicted felons outside family members, but Vanatta said he thinks officers should be allowed to help people who are trying to get help through the intensive Drug Court Program.

"I think we all realize just arresting people and putting them in jail is not the answer," he said.

Police and probation officials will have to work out a set agreement that allows officers to be involved with Drug Court clients without violating the code of conduct, Vanatta said.

The hope also is that set guidelines will allow officials to keep officer relationships above board, which will help officials differentiate between what is acceptable and inappropriate.

For instance, Vanatta said no one with his department knew Johnson was helping probation do home checks for clients. Johnson also is accused of helping Merwin violate her probation for two separate drug charges.

"We probably don't need to be doing home checks," Vanatta said.

A major portion of a special Craig City Council meeting Tuesday also addressed concerns the council had for continued funding of ACET in light of Johnson's alleged actions.

As part of the charges against him, Johnson is alleged to have divulged confidential information about surveillance technology, ongoing investigations and names of confidential informants.

The city of Craig is a major financial contributor to the task force, and there is some worry among city leaders that Johnson's alleged actions compromised the agency's ability to function.

"As you know, I'm an extraordinary supporter of what you do," Councilor Terry Carwile told ACET and other law enforcement officers in attendance. "I despair the organization is at some peril."

Both Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz and Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow gave impassioned speeches to the council Tuesday about why shutting down ACET would hurt the community.

"The only way we'll stop convicting people is if we stop supporting ACET," Snow said. "The only way drug dealers win is if we stop supporting ACET."

The District Attorney's Office has handled about 62 drug distribution cases since he started in 2007, Snow added. Of those, 60 came from ACET investigations.

The thought that ACET is crippled by the Johnson investigation is false, he said. The agency has brought in the same number of cases as before.

The belief that people will be too scared to become confidential informants is likewise untrue, Snow said.

"People come because they're afraid of going to prison," he said.

In the grander scheme, the council's worry that Johnson's case has brought about a crisis of faith among the community in local law enforcement, government and the justice system also is wrong, Snow added.

He recently had to poll potential jurors about their ability to trust testimony from a police officer. Every one of them, he said, said Johnson was one bad apple.

"As a whole, people still believe in our law enforcement, and I think that's a credit to their effort so far," Snow said.

The ACET board, which includes regional law enforcement agencies and the district attorney, also met for its regular meeting Wednesday and started working on a list of possible improvements to the agency's internal policies and procedures.

That list has yet to be finalized, Vanatta said, but will be presented to the City Council once completed.

Comments

Craig_gal 4 years, 5 months ago

I hope that the citizens do not believe as taxslave does. Not ALL of the force is corrupt. There are some excellent officers on a force and my fear is that those good ones are the ones that are going to say "it's not worth it" and leave the area, then what will we be left with?

0

taxslave 4 years, 5 months ago

If the good guys leave it will be because the "top" allows the garbage to continue. That's why they'll say, "it's not worth it". Not because of anything I post.

0

taxslave 4 years, 5 months ago

"As a whole people still believe in our police force".....HOGWASH. That is totally not the word on the street. The word is that you're all corrupt....from the top down, that you're all compromised.

Personally, this is the biggest bunch of bologna I've ever heard. Don't forget the welfare thief either.

You will all answer to a higher authority. There is a record of the 18 missing minutes of the Nixon tapes that will be played before all of us someday. Stay tuned.

0

onewhocares 4 years, 5 months ago

" He who stands by and does nothing when witnessing a crime, are just as guilty as the person(s) committing the crime" Sam Oliner-Holocause survivor & professor

Despite the truly wonderful officers out there helping the community, the series of events that have unfolded in the last 4 weeks have really deeply hurt the police department's image. A local police officer taught us years ago at the police academy at CNCC, "image is everything in police work." Within the last few weeks, Officer Luker was not charged with embezzlement, in a company co-owned with his wife, though his wife was, then the totally disappointing news about the road Ken Johnson chose to take, whom I liked, along with the very incriminating news the police department did nothing to stop it, which as Sam would say, makes them just as guilty as Ken, then the tragic timing of Kathy Johnson's death just days later.

What does the police department expect the communtiy to feel after reading this? How can the community not question the integrity of those in charge? And remember one more thing, that officers taught us at the academy "where there's smoke, there's usually fire." Maybe guys it's time you listen to your own words. Sadly, the damage is done to CPD- --though bless the hearts of the officers that are truly honorable.

0

sickandtired 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree with onewhocares on all points he/she mentioned. Yes, there was very incriminating news the pd did nothing to stop it. I like how in the city council meeting that 'Herod' questioned Vanetta how his department couldn't find enough proof, yet when he looked trough the papers he saw proof everywhere! And another councilmember questioned if Delong was qualified to even run an internal investigation? Says alot about his investigation doesn't it? Did the CPD also do their own internal investigation when another dirty cop was paid drug money to look the other way a few years back? That guy was able to resign, no charges, no nothing. How does that happen? Maybe dirty cop was going to bring down some bigger names with him so they just swept him under the rug quietly? That whole department needs to clean house, so does the sherriffs office, and the DA'S. If it brings down the whole roof, then so be it! And they wonder why people generally dont trust them? I for one will see this as a travesty of justice if they don't start at the very top and work their way down. Why do you think we have such a big drug problem? The DA's and the judges let them plea bargain and slap their wrists. People in this town are sick of whats been going on for far too long. Everybody would be shocked if they only knew who all is involved in this drug city.

0

oliver21 4 years, 5 months ago

People in Craig r-e-a-l-l-y need to read the arrest warrant. www.courts.state.co.us Move your mouse to the "Courts" tab along the top; from the drop down menu click on "Trial Courts By County"; choose "Moffat County"; the only item under "General Information" is the arrest warrant. There is sooo much more than what the paper has informed us.

0

thepatriot 4 years, 5 months ago

Thank You, oliver21, I went and looked at the arrest warrant. It is 218 pages and will require more time to read it all. You are right there is a lot there. Can not believe how corrupt some people are and how far they will go. But this is over the top. There is no honor left in law enforcement. I have heard of a possible lawsuit against Johnson and the county. With this kind of behaviour I see a lot more. I believe all law enforcement agencies in this county need to be investigated. Especially after this and the welfare cheat.

0

melonie barrett 4 years, 5 months ago

rumour has it that a blank birth certificate was found lying in the social services parking lot ????

0

cag81625 4 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for that link. Nothing like news from the actual source. It is quite fascinating. If you read it, I recommend a nice tub of popcorn.

0

lonelyone 4 years, 5 months ago

lawmaker, you lost me on that last comment. What does that have to do with Ken Johnson and what he's being charged with? maybe your trying to make a point and I missed it. sorry if that's the case.

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

The way the cpd acts is corupt ,i have first hand knowlege of how they only enforce the law when it serves their purpose . And what about Storm Fallon we were told she resined when in fact she was firerd as it came out in court the whole cpd needs firerd and we need to start over.

0

oldsage 4 years, 5 months ago

Thanks Oliver, I read it and hats off to Little Joe!

Merwin and Johnson should be charged with Gross Stupidity! And Vanatta and DeLong should get the ax! I suspected it before I read it but those who did the "Internal Cover Up" should be fired! Gross Incompetence at best and most likely cover up.

Mr. Jones and the city council should take action immediately. Clean house folks! Clean house!

0

taxslave 4 years, 5 months ago

Check out all this corruption in the Grand Junction dept.....found this article this morning...

http://fwix.com/share/88_b81f5a8409

We need to have City Council fire Vanetta and have an election for a new chief. Vanetta was appointed, he came from another state. We need to elect a Constitutionalists, someone local.

To do nothing is not ok.

0

PUSH2008 4 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, Oliver21! You did what I wanted to do by giving the information that is available publically. Most enlighenting information and yes, good reading material. I read it prior to your providing the location of the Arrest Warrant and I was shocked by it.

I can only hope that those that are in power will take some time to educate themselves as well. Don't you think that the City Council may want to read the Arrest Warrant?

It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.

0

melonie barrett 4 years, 5 months ago

seeing how its halloween,,,one meth face from another they probably could not tell anyway who is who as ugly as they are lmao

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

I WOULD be interrested in others who have been done wrong by the craig pd maybe a class action lawsuit is what we need

0

thepatriot 4 years, 5 months ago

norights, I am interested in hearing about Storm Fallon as well. I never knew she was fired, what happened? Please respond with what you know.

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

look up storm fallon and the incidents she has been involved in she used the same tactics as a nazi storm trooper the date that is most interesting happend on April 3 2007

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

I was the victom of domestic violence my then wife tore off the door to our bed room aand when 911 was called by me storm fallon showed up and i was told because we were not argueing that it was not a crime and i was left with a very hostel party putting my self and my then 3 month old daughter at risk . It does no good to report it to the cheif because he covers up all .

0

melonie barrett 4 years, 5 months ago

maybe they ought to publish the chiefs and storm fallons text messages ????

0

thepatriot 4 years, 5 months ago

norights, Thanks for the info. I went and read that 1. I know Ms. Fallon has hurt some families in Moffat County. Completely went over-board on a simple case and made it much worse than it was. Better yet my young daughter was assaulted at school with a bleeding head injury. Between the assistant principle and Fallon they took their sweet time before contacting me so I could get my daughter to the hospital for her injuries. Then they treated the offender like the victim. ANYTHING! Storm Fallon has done would not surprise me, and oh yes absolutely the chief is the cover up guy. Storm Fallon can create crime like nothing else. They all cover up for each other. And a big problem in Craig that I have seen is if you are friends with the cops or the spouses you can get out of jail free and get your charges dropped. Just Amazing!

0

moreinfo 4 years, 5 months ago

Can anyone tell me why Lance Eldridge transferred from the Steamboat Springs police department to the Craig police department? Also I would like to know how long has Jeremy Snow been working in the DA's office, and where did he work before working in Moffat County?

0

thepatriot 4 years, 5 months ago

Thats a great article dentedfender, Thanks. That also needs some looking into.

0

oldsage 4 years, 5 months ago

Walt needs a pink slip from the city council and they need to hire a no nonsense objective person with the intestinal fortitude to enforce the law equally for everyone. And as for enforcing the law equally in the county the womanizer in chief we have now ain't the right guy! Standing by for a post delete!

0

Joanna Hatten 4 years, 5 months ago

How do you look up info on Storm Fallon.....I tried google but nothing.

0

infofact 4 years, 5 months ago

Not sure how this turned into a forum on Fallon but I always found her to be an excellent victim's advocate and an exceptional school resource officer. If you have ever seen her in public and seen the number of people, especially children, that come up to greet and hug her, then perhaps you will have seen a former officer that made a difference in a number of lives and that Craig PD is less without her. One point though, it does seem like Ms. Fallon ran a foul of this administration after she noted to her superiors her concerns about the relationship between Johnson and Merwin. If she noticed it, how did the "internal investigators" miss it?

0

DV8 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm sure Fallon was great with little kids. My understanding of the problem with her is that she over exaggerated things to make up crimes and lied in police reports. I am curious if this is why she was fired. What came out in court?

0

slipknot 4 years, 5 months ago

IMHO and mine only I left MoCo 10 years ago but still maintain northwestern Colorado as my main residence. There is a reason that MoCo is known throughout the state as Mafia County. Your LEO's are a laughing stock. Your DA's are known throughout the state as toss-offs from somewhere else. The good LEO's won't stay once they see the depth of the corruption, and your county and city commissions are happy about it. You have to make the difference get rid of the whole bunch. Get a new DA or request a special investigator from the State AG.

0

reader1 4 years, 5 months ago

In response to thepatriot, I completely agree that if you are friends with a cop or their spouse you can get away with anything. I think the majority of the police force have something to hide. The spouses themselves get away with just about anything because they are married to somebody on the force. This is ridiculous.

0

infofact 4 years, 5 months ago

Fallon resigned. DV8, if you have proof of anything like this concerning any of her cases, or any one you know, please hot foot it down to the DA's office with your evidence of wrongdoing on Officer Fallon's part - now is the perfect time. No rights, I remember one time that I got very angry with my spouse and I kicked a hole in our closet door. Outside of hurting my foot and feeling like a fool, in the state of Colorado I have the right to get mad in my home, I have the right to kick a closet door or take a door off, and as long as I do no physical violence to a person, I cannot be arrested. I am sorry for your terror and that of your daughter, but it was not something that your wife could have been arrested for under the facts that you have cited. Not the officer's fault, that is the law.

This mob mentality is astounding. The actual truth of something really doesn't matter. Let's just get some payback, or let's see who we can trash without getting caught. You are the reason people like Johnson can happen - he's you.

0

oldsage 4 years, 5 months ago

Mafia County is right! I don't state have of what should be said because the paper will delete my posts. Norights, If you like the archives in this paper you will love the fact that this paper suspended this forum completely for about two weeks when this paper's favorite candidate for sheriff was being exposed for all to see during the last sheriff's election. So much for the fourth estate! (The "Fourth Estate" refers to the press being independent watchdogs for the people, for those of you who only have a MoCo education)

0

ActionTime 4 years, 5 months ago

Open letter to the citizens of Moffat County.

I've read a lot of comments from you that have been posted relating to the Ken Johnson case. It is very obvious that many of you are not satisfied with the LEO of Moffat County. Some of you state that you have proof of wrong doings within the office from the DA's office down.

I believe that it is time that we, the citizens of Moffat County, do more than just post commants. These comments arn't getting to the person who has the authority to investigate these issues. Also, unless we stand as a group, we won't be listened to. If the Attorney General's office receives a large number of complaints from a group of citizens they won't know that there IS a problem. They also need to see a joint effort from our concerned citizens. I suggest that during the first week of December 2009 we all send our letters of concern along with proof of wrong doings to Attorney General 1525 Sherman St. Denver, Co 80203 You can find out more information on the duties of his office at . www.ago.state.co.us>

I'm waiting to hear your thoughts on this idea. Maybe some good will come out of this Johnson mess.

0

ActionTime 4 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, my comment should have read. Unless the Attorney General's office receives a large number of complaints from a group of citizens they won't know that there IS a problem.

0

pucky 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure how some of the comments got off on former Officer Fallon instead of Johnson but I would like to respond to both. First, to norights and his 911 call. You just gave a thumbnail sketch of what happened, but from what you said, your wife supposedly tore the door off. The last I knew it was not against the law to tear up or break your own property. No where do you say anyone was assaulted or injured nor in danger. It is not against the law to be angry. If that were the case, then it would be likely that both you and your wife would have been in jail. It sounds like you are mad at Fallon because you didn't get your way. You also need to get your facts right about her leaving; it was by resignation, nothing more.

It sounds like the same for thepatriot. My question is what led up to the injuries that you say your daughter sustained? What was your daughter doing? Are you wearing rose colored glasses? Yes, I have two daughters of my own and I am well aware that neither one is a perfect angel and that they make mistakes. They, however, have learned to take responsibility for their actions and as a parent I have no delusions as to who they are.

I have had dealings with Ms. Fallon and I have found her to be nothing but professional. If not taking garbage from those she has to deal with makes her a storm trooper, then good for her. I would feel much better with her protecting me and my family than either you or norights. There are number of people in this town that would agree with this statement. As for her embellishing the facts, there is no need for that as people on their own do really foolish things.

0

pucky 4 years, 5 months ago

To what is most important, is Mr. Johnson, his actions, and how the department handled it. The City Manager and the City Council should take a very close look at their police chief. It is basic management 101 that the top spot dictates the attitude and the ethics of an organization. It is rumored that the department had violations on two different occasions that should have caused his firing. However, one resulted in nothing being done and the second a short suspension. Why? Next, the chief and his supervisors investigated Johnson for his relationship with a known drug dealer. How could they not see what was going on? How could they miss 15,000 text messages between the two? It seems obvious to me that the chief showed his lack of competency in that position. The chief then claims that he "was fooled". Again, shame on him if that occurred because the chief should be the one person that isn't. If I was the city manager and wanted to fix the department and the image, I would start at the top with the chief. Until that happens, nothing will change in the department. It is too bad that the City Manager and the chief are tight buddies and this needed change is not likely to happen. I challenge the City Manger and the City Council to grow a pair and do what is right for the people of Craig - get rid of the chief.

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

first off if you look up the colorado revised statuts you will find that it is aginst the law to break anything in a home you share with a spouse. it is called criminal mischeif . a freind of mine is in court for a devortce and fallon was called as a witness and it was brought out by an attorney that she was indeed firerd .

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

i was stupid enough to make a complaint about storm fallons conduct to the chief of course he coverd her butt. since then there has been a domestic violence, robbery,threats on my life by my ex wife and the craig pd does nothing because i comlained I had my ex on my voice mail saying plain as day she was going to kill me and all i got out of law enforcement was ohh she wont do that. gee no wonder im mad

0

thepatriot 4 years, 5 months ago

I would like to know if you are a cop pucky? Who are you to rip norights and myself? Feels like an interrogation or something.

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

maybee he is worried about everything that has been coverd up

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

i will go get the testamony from the court for all to see about fallon

0

thepatriot 4 years, 5 months ago

norights I believe everything you have said here. And whoever pucky is joined yesterday to post those comments. So its a friend thing I'm sure. Everyone has a right to know the truth.

0

oldsage 4 years, 5 months ago

If the city manager and city council don't fire (Mr. I can't write what I call him now here) then the city council needs to be fired at the ballot box! Then the new council can fire them both!

0

norights 4 years, 5 months ago

inocent untill proven guilty by a court of law means nothing to this county it is lie untill you win the case at all costs

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.