Feature | Final Shot: Salt Lake Police fired Rob Joseph nine years ago. He’s not about to get over it. | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

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

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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. n

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. n

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. n

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.” n

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.” n

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.” n

“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.” n

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. n

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. n

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

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: n

“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.” n

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. n

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. n

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

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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. n

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. n

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. n

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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