The Springdale police have been singled out for perhaps thousands of dollars in missing funds, a figure unknown because it kept poor records, the audit said.
Sitting at the south entrance to Zion National Park, the majority of the park's 2.8 million annual visitors pass through Springdale, a town with 500 residents and a police force of three full-time officers.
The audit said the police targeted foreign tourists, and failed to provide required paperwork to those cited for routine traffic offenses, or to the courts, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday. It reviewed 423 citations issued in an unlawful manner and found 138 missing from Springdale police records, suggesting a police officer could have pocketed the cash in any of the 138.
"Thus, the possibility exists that officers could have written citations, collected the citation fines from defendants on the spot, destroyed the citations and kept the money," the auditors wrote. The practice amounted to "a police officer acting in the capacity of law enforcement, judge and jury."
In response to the audit, Springdale's police chief ordered a stop to the practice, the newspaper said.