Utah Officer Faces Discipline From Repossession Altercation
NORTH OGDEN (KUTV) — A North Ogden police officer is facing discipline from his department and his city may be facing a lawsuit after a January altercation with a repossession agent at his private residence.
Brandon Morreale, a five-year department veteran, confronted Tracy Butler outside his Farr West home the night of January 23 as she and her husband were towing away his personal vehicle.
Butler says they hooked his truck to theirs and then knocked on the front door to offer him a chance to remove any of his personal items from inside the vehicle.
That’s when she says he assaulted her, grabbing her arm and pushing her.
Morreale did not respond to 2News’ efforts to talk about the incident. Police Chief Dirk Quinney said Morreale was advised not to speak with the press about the incident because of the possibility of litigation.
Butler began filming just after the alleged assault. Audio from that video includes the following back and forth:
“I didn’t assault nobody,” Morreale is heard saying off-camera. “I moved her off my truck.”
“You can’t touch me,” Butler said.
“You’re on my property, yes I can,” Morreale responded.
Morreale’s wife, who is the most prominent figure in the frame of the video, appears to try to intervene, stepping between the two and urging her husband to back away.
“I’m sorry, I’m trying to keep him away from your arm,” she said to Butler.
The Weber County Sheriff Office was called to the scene, where the two parties each considered criminal charges appropriate for the other.
Morreale said the Butlers trespassed and Butler said she was assaulted during a lawful repossession.
Deputies on scene allowed the Butlers to leave with Morreale’s vehicle over protests from the couple that they were current on the payments.
Weber County deputies forwarded their case file to the West Farr City Attorney for screening and Ryan Shaw declined to pursue criminal charges against either party.
When contacted Tuesday to explain his reasoning for the decision, Shaw said he’d been informed of a pending lawsuit and could not address the matter.
But on Monday the Butlers received a letter in the mail from Quinney, which acknowledged Morreale was “found to be in violation of the North Ogden Police Department’s ‘Officer Conduct’ policy,” and would be disciplined accordingly.
“It left me with more questions than answers,” Butler said of the letter, still upset no charges were filed. “It was pretty vague.”
Quinney, who was installed as police chief in October, said internal discipline is not public information. He said this was Morreale’s first brush with discipline of this nature.
“It comes down to the reaction more than anything of our officer in the incident,” he said, noting he felt both parties could’ve handled the situation better. “Anybody in this same circumstance that this officer was put in, was the reaction unreasonable? And in our minds it was more reasonable than not.”
But Morreale’s officer status changes things.
“It met a standard of conduct that maybe was unbecoming of maybe a higher standard that an officer might be held to, but maybe not anybody else,” Quinney said. “Somewhere in there we’ve got to kind of figure out where that line is, this was a difficult case.”
The Butlers said Tuesday afternoon they intend to hire a lawyers to seek damages from the city.