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Investigators throw out 98 West Valley police cases

By Pat Reavy | Posted - Apr 23rd, 2013 @ 10:06pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — For the second day in a row, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah announced the dismissal of yet another case investigated by the embattled West Valley Police Department.

Tuesday's announcement brings the total number of dismissed federal cases involving West Valley police to 10 and the total number of both state and federal cases to 98.

In September, James Edward Hale was indicted by a grand jury on one count of possession of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. On Monday, a federal judge granted the government's request for the case to be dismissed with prejudice "in the interests of justice," according to the motion.

This week's dismissed federal cases come after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill dismissed 88 cases due to credibility issues connected to allegations of corruption within the police department, and specifically its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit.

The unit was disbanded in December following the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Willard by a pair of undercover drug detectives, Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon. Police say the discovery of evidence from another case in the trunk of Cowley's car raised red flags that led to an internal investigation.

Five-point plan:
  • Identify and root out any and all impropriety.
  • A need for independent oversight, which will come from a bolstered professional standards review board.
  • A special review panel that will review each of the criminal cases dropped by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office
  • New police leadership - a chief will be named later this summer
  • And keeping an eye on the big picture - the dropped cases make up a small percentage of overall criminal investigations which happen each year.

Cowley and Salmon have been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. An additional seven officers from the drug unit were placed on leave last week pending the outcomes of several investigations.

In a press conference Tuesday, West Valley mayor Mike Winder addressed the situation.

"We are upset, as elected officials, and we want to make sure things like this do not happen again," he said. He and city manager Wayne Pyle, along with interim police chief Anita Schwemmer, introduced a five-point plan Tuesday "to ensure that we have rigorous training, clear policies and published reports."

He said although some cases have been dismissed, the department sees several thousand cases successfully prosecuted each year.

Contributing: Andrew Wittenberg and Alex Cabrero

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