SALT LAKE CITY — A handful of West Valley narcotics officers have been accused of mishandling, even stealing evidence from cases they worked on. That information was made public Friday when the West Valley Police Department released results from an internal audit it recently conducted.
Aside from the implications on the department itself, many wonder what about the officers who were in the narcotics unit. Could they be in trouble for missing items and mishandled evidence? Maybe face criminal or civil charges?
One well-known Utah defense attorney says probably not.
Greg Skordas has defended almost every type of case you can think of. He's not involved with West Valley's current police issues, but he has worked with several police departments in the past on all sorts of legal matters.
"We historically hold police officers at a very high standard," he said.
Still, Skordas doesn't think what happened within West Valley's narcotics unit is a sign of major problems in the department.
...to say that this is something that is specific to that department, that is unique to that department, that is more pervasive in that department than any other is absolutely wrong.
–Greg Skordas, Utah defense attorney
"You know, you can't excuse what happened, and I understand that. But to say that this is something that is specific to that department, that is unique to that department, that is more pervasive in that department than any other is absolutely wrong," Skordas said.
He believes, sometimes, hard police work can get messy.
"Officers, especially undercover officers, get a little — I don't know what you call it — ‘loose?'" Skordas said. "They get a little relaxed in the way that they handle things, and they may just not log the evidence in every day like you may want it to be."
Mistakes happen in any profession, but in West Valley's case, Skordas doesn't think the mistakes are a sign of a larger police problem — and he doesn't think officers who made mistakes will be in any criminal or civil trouble.
"It's never said in our Constitution that everyone is entitled to perfect police work. They're entitled to fair police work," he said.
The remedy to mistakes in a case, Skordas said, is to admit them to a judge or jury and explain why they were made. He doesn't believe cases should automatically be thrown out of court.