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Hispanic leaders claim arrest charges were based on racial profiling

By Jed Boal | Posted - Mar 22nd, 2013 @ 5:33pm

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WEST VALLEY CITY — Hispanic community leaders raised questions on Friday after suggesting that the West Valley Police made arrests based on racial profiling. However, the 19 drug cases in question were dismissed by the District Attorney earlier in the week.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sam Gill said he dismissed the cases after prosecutors determined there wasn't enough credible evidence to get convictions based on racial profiling. They said race was not part of the decisions in the arrests.

However, several leaders feel that racial profiling definitely played a role because 15 of the 19 people arrested were Hispanic.

"There's an inordinate number of Latinos," said Archie Archuletta, representative of the Utah Coalition of La Raza. "At the very least, this could be racial profiling."

Archuletta and other leaders said they aren't making accusations, but that they want to find out if the suspects were targeted for traffic stops because they are Hispanic. They have asked the Department of Justice to further investigate, despite the District Attorney's dismissal of the cases.

"We want to make sure somebody else looks at it," said Tony Yapias, representative of Proyecto Latino de Utah.

Most of the cases were drug related, and Gill said they were identified as part of a continuing investigation into West Valley police detective Shaun Cowley, who led the investigations.

Cowley was also one of two undercover narcotics officers involved in the fatal shooting of a drug suspect in November. However, Gill insists that even though Cowley is under investigation, race was not a reason the drug cases were dismissed.

"What may or may not be discovered later on," Gill said, "I cannot speculate about an open investigation. These are important issues to raise and be concerned about. But, let's not judge every law-enforcement officer out there by this broad generalization."

The West Valley Police Department did not comment on the issue on Friday, but it did comment on Wednesday about the 19 cases in question.

"I believe that our detectives are conducting these cases based on the merits of the case," said Sgt. Jason Hauer. "Whether these crimes that have been committed, there is no indication that there is any bias."

The Department of Justice in Denver was also contacted, but said it could not confirm or deny a request for an investigation.


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