Peak Alarm fires back

Company claims it was maliciously targeted in false alarm arrest case
Sunday, May 1, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY--Peak Alarm Company fired back last month against the Salt Lake City Police Department, which had arrested the company's central station manager for supposedly dispatching a false alarm in 2003, by filing a lawsuit that alleges the police department maliciously targeted the family-owned business in order to silence the overall industry's opposition to the city's non-response policy.
By filing the lawsuit, the company seeks reimbursement for attorney's fees as a result of the charges and other unspecified damages. As the law requires, the company filed a notice in June 2004 that it intended to sue the city's government. The city never responded, according to Peak Alarm's attorney and spokesperson, Stephen Clark, so the company proceeded with litigation.
The purpose of the initial filing was to begin "checking any other avenue to air grievances and concerns before Peak Alarm filed a lawsuit," said Clark.
The issue dates back to June 2003, when Jeff Howe alerted the police that a Salt Lake City School District employee reportedly witnessed two unauthorized individuals enter West High School. The responding officers determined Howe had not complied with the city's non-response policy, which was enacted in 2000 and requires a private guard to verify a criminal act before dispatch.
A month later, according to Clark, Salt Lake City police officers arrived at the company's offices and announced they were there to arrest Howe. The officers proceeded to fingerprint him in the open, which is "consistent with the whole show atmosphere" of the situation and helped "send a broader message" to the industry at large, he said.
Howe faced up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine for the class B misdemeanor. However, last April, Judge Paul Iwasaki dismissed the case because of a lack of evidence to support the charge.
An example of one of the more outspoken representatives of the Salt Lake City Police Department that has spoken out against the company has been the city's alarm coordinator, Shanna Werner, according to the company's lawsuit. Peak Alarm, in this most recent development, cites Werner as another example of Peak Alarm being single out for its protests of the non-response policy.
"Peak Alarm believes the objective of Shanna Werner was to seriously misalign Peak Alarm with the industry or to disrupt Peak Alarm's business or put it entirely out of business," Clark said.
When reached by telephone, Werner declined to comment and directed all questions about the matter to the city's attorney's office. City Attorney Martha Stonebrook did not return calls as of press time.
"I think it's critical they pursue it," agreed Ron Walters, director at the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, about Peak Alarm's lawsuit. "It goes beyond the arrest: the police are actually meddling in the industry at that point."
In his judgment, Iwasaki found, according to court documents, "None of the evidence presented by the City established Mr. Howe's intent at the time he contacted Salt Lake City Police dispatch, nor was there any evidence presented by the City to establish that Mr. Howe knowingly or intentionally made false representations to Salt Lake City dispatch."