Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gary Jensen Unanimously Confirmed And Sworn In As New Police Chief In Logan, Utah As Controversy Over "Vernal Ass-Whip" Video Fades


The temporary controversy over a video in which Gary Jensen (pictured at left with Mayor Randy Watts further left) briefly appeared while still police chief in Vernal, Utah, died with a whimper on October 20th, 2009 when the Logan Municipal Council voted unanimously to confirm him as Logan's new police chief. On the same night, Jensen was sworn in.

In the video filmed over two years ago, now dunned the "Vernal Ass-Whip" video, Jensen handed his Orcutt Police Nunchaku nunchuks to a band member who expressed interest in them after a concert. The band member proceeded to whack another band member one time on a typical "dare". Jensen immediately took back the nunchuks. It was nothing more than sophomoric horseplay; nobody was hurt.

But the controversy was fueled further by a seemingly benign statement given by Mayor Randy Watts meant to downplay the video led to the ratification’s postponement. Watts had said the Vernal City Council had reviewed the video and dismissed it immediately. However, the day after Watts made that statement, Vernal’s mayor and two councilmen said they never saw the video or heard of it. Watts said he got the information from Jensen. Jensen told the media he never said such a thing and explained that he reviewed the video with Vernal’s city manager, and that they had decided it wasn’t significant enough to bring to the council’s attention. But it was enough to cause the Logan Municipal Council to delay the confirmation vote originally scheduled for October 6th. In the interim, the Vernal City Council chose to delay accepting Jensen's resignation from their department.

In the final analysis, the Council simply decided to write off Jensen's confusing explanation as merely proffered in "the heat of battle", and unanimously confirmed him. Councilwoman Tami Pyfer said that during the past two weeks, she’s heard from many residents who, she said, generally fell in one of two camps. Those who know Jensen personally praised him, while those who only know of the man through media reports harbored reservations.

In response, Jensen said, “I’ve learned there’s a different environment here in Logan, and when I say that I don’t want you to perceive that to be bad; it’s not bad. It’s a wonderful opportunity. I can’t wait to learn about the politics, I can’t wait to learn about the media, I can’t wait to learn about the city officials, the community, and everyone that’s involved here.”

Coming out of this looking somewhat indecisive is Mayor Randy Watts, who faces Mike Morrill in the November election. Not surprisingly, Morrill expressed his thoughts on this issue HERE. But Morrill's candidacy may be undermined in heavily-Mormon Logan by the endorsement he received from the Salt Lake-based gay rights group Equality Utah, so Watts may survive the challenge.

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