WEST VALLEY CITY — Police in West Valley City have been under almost constant fire lately with federal investigations into corrupt narcotics officers and a highly controversial officer involved shooting. West Valley City acting police chief Anita Schwemmer is dealing with a full plate these days.
Schwemmer is in a fascinating position: She's been with the department for 20 years, has gone from patrol officer to acting chief and believes the department is now moving forward. She sat down with KSL reporters Wednesday.
Schwemmer is someone you might consider to be a quiet, unassuming leader, describing her style as "caring."
"That probably goes back to the fact that I am a mother and I am a grandmother," she said. She has three children, four stepchildren and nine grandchildren.
Schwemmer was a stay-at-home mom, but decided at the age of 34 to follow her life long dream — to be a cop. Over the next 20 years, she would rise to the position she's in today.
It just so happens to be during the most difficult time in the department's history. There was the Danielle Willard shooting last November, which led to an investigation into the narcotics unit — a unit she was in charge of four years ago.
Evidence was lost or stolen in that unit. Investigations were compromised by a few cops she calls "bad apples." Nearly 100 cases have been dismissed as a result.
"It appears that most of it was just not following procedures and that it was, could be termed as, laziness," she said. "It definitely doesn't seem like anything that was done maliciously."
She was adamant that corruption within the department was isolated, not systemic.
She said she has the backing of city leaders in her continuing role as acting chief.
"I was approached by the city manager, asked if I would to continue in that role as acting chief," she said. "And I felt very comfortable with the support of the city, the city manager, the mayor and City Council to continue in that role."
Big change and big problems could be just around the corner for Schwemmer, but she said she's undaunted by the challenge.
She said she'd continue in the role "even with that knowledge that something serious was on the horizon."
"These are people that I've worked with. The entire department. I wanted to be able to contribute in that way to my police community and help guide them through this process and problem," she said.
She said she would not be applying for the full-time chief position, saying that it would be a demanding period for the new chief and that she wants to spend time with family. Nevertheless, she won't retire and plans to keep working at the department.