‘Tensions are very high’: Mantua residents unsure how to feel about new police chief

Local News

MANTUA, Utah (ABC4) – In March, a Mantua police chief was abruptly fired from duty. Now, there is a new chief of police, and residents are learning about his past as an officer in West Jordan. His past has some residents worried.

To an outsider looking in, the green mountains, blue lake, and slow moving traffic all work to make it appear tranquil in the town of Mantua. However, not everyone would agree.

“Tensions are very high in town,” Denise Hardy tells ABC4. She is a resident of Mantua and a co-owner of the only restaurant in town.

Why are tensions high?

In March, former Mantua Mayor Michael Johnson fired Chief of Police Mike Castro, who was brought onto the force less than a year prior.

Just a few weeks later, in April, the mayor resigned from office due to the fallout from firing Chief Castro, but not before swearing in Craig Hamer as the new chief of police.

“He’d (Craig Hamer) come in (into the restaurant) and introduced himself, and seemed awful nice,” Hardy explains. “I don’t know the background. I know everybody that’s coming in and saying, ‘Did you hear? Did you hear?’”

The background Hardy talks about centers around Hamer’s time as a police officer for the West Jordan Police Department, where he was reportedly written up for a number of violations and later fired by the West Jordan police chief.

This uncertain background of the new chief of police adds to the tension some residents, like Hardy, are feeling during a time of uncertainty. “I don’t know what to hope for because I’m kind of waiting for the other shoe to fall and say, ‘Is he going to be around? Are people going to run him out?’”

Another resident, who didn’t want to be identified, spoke to ABC4. She’s also feeling the tension in town that Hardy mentioned. This resident adds, “We as residents wish the leaders in town would be more transparent. Many of them have forgotten that we elected them to represent us as citizens… No one wants to own up to these wrongs or correct them. We are looking forward to voting in new leadership this fall.”

Hardy says she supported the former chief of police and was sad to see him go. Nonetheless, she tells ABC4 his firing, in a way, has been good for the town because people are starting to ask: “What’re people making? Where’s our money going? And, people got interested in how the town was being run.” Hardy says she believes as more people ask these questions, she hopes to see more stability and transparency in town leadership.

Castro also spoke to ABC4 over the phone. He says that on Monday night, he accepted a position as the assistant chief of police for a southern Utah police department.

He also states it still breaks his heart that he had to leave Mantua. He says he fell in love with the area and felt welcomed by the residents.

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He also tells ABC4 finding a job at a new police station proved to be difficult, and the financial stress of him being out of work was starting to make an impact on his family.

ABC4 is waiting to hear back from the West Jordan Police Department to learn more about the alleged violations made by Craig Hamer during his time as an officer for the department.

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