The rift between Sandy Mayor Steve Newton and the city's police department grew wider over the weekend when Newton ordered an archery meet reopened after an officer closed it Sunday.
Officer Stan Short was called to Falcon Park, near 93rd South and 16th East, about 11:30 a.m. Mother's Day after a resident near the park complained that people were shooting arrows in the park near where children were playing. Short told the Deseret News he closed the meet because of safety and public nuisance concerns and also because it is illegal to shoot arrows or launch other missiles or projectiles in a park.Short then left the park and considered the incident over. But he was told to return and tell the meet organizers they could resume shooting. The order, he was told, came from the mayor. Short issued no citations.
Newton told the Deseret News that Short had acted correctly in stopping the meet, because the group had no written permit and the officer had no way of knowing the event had been approved by the city's Parks and Recreation Department 1 1/2 weeks earlier.
He said although a permit technically was not required, the city should have issued one to avoid exactly this kind of misunderstanding.
But the mayor said it was up to him - not the officer - to make the policy decision to allow the meet to continue after certain safety concerns had been met.
Newton said that when members of the archery group contacted him Sunday, he called the police chief and had him check out the danger. The chief told him that Short was concerned about city liability, Newton said, and the mayor agreed that the jogging path at the edge of the shooting area should be blocked off before the tournament continued.
Once that was done, the mayor, who said he's familiar with archery, was satisfied that the activity was completely safe.
He said the archery group involved has never had an accident in any of its tournaments, making it "much safer than the police's own softball program," which has resulted in a number of worker's compensation claims.
Short said that although the archery group had verbal permission from the city to use the park, no arrangements had been made to allow the group to circumvent city and state ordinances against shooting weapons or launching projectiles inside a city park.
"They told me they were going to call the mayor, and I said, `Go ahead,' " Short said.
The city committed a misdemeanor, Short said, by allowing the meet to continue after the violation and hazards had been observed by an officer.
Newton said City Attorney Wally Miller has told him he did not violate any ordinance by allowing the tournament to proceed. The ordinance cited by police, he said, if strictly enforced would prohibit softball, soccer and Frisbee throwing in the parks.
Stories of confrontations between the mayor and police officers are common around the police department. Officers speaking off the rec-ord have told the Deseret News that Newton interferes with police operations, has made improper requests of officers and has ordered at least one demotion within the department.
"Because they don't have substance, they go to silliness," Newton said of police critics. The mayor said he expects more such criticism in the future because the police union dislikes him and he refuses to cave in to it.
A larger archery tournament is planned next month at Falcon Park as part of the Utah Summer Games, and Short said safe archery shooting could take place there if the right precautions are met and if legal provisions are taken to sidestep the ordinance that prohibits projectiles categorized as missiles or weapons.