8 federal cases involving embattled West Valley police dismissed

City Council hears proposals to change citizen review board

Published: Wednesday, April 10 2013 11:00 a.m. MDT

Cowley and detective Kevin Salmon have been on paid administrative leave since November when they shot and killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard during an undercover drug investigation.

Cowley's attorneys say he has been put on notice that he will likely be fired by the department. Both Jarvis and Rawson asked the council to hold off making any decisions until the FBI completes its review of the department and its narcotics unit, which was disbanded in December.

Jarvis said her client's case was scheduled to go before the Professional Standards Review Board on Thursday. She asked the council to wait, however, until the proposed changes to the board are implemented.

"Now is the time to start doing things in the way it is supposed to be done," she said.

Rawson concurred that it was premature to take any action against Cowley before the FBI completes its investigation. The FBI was asked by both the department and Gill to investigate the department's drug unit to determine if there was "systematic corruption."

Rawson has previously said that Cowley is being set up to be West Valley's scapegoat, and that the detective was simply conducting investigations the way he had been instructed by his superiors.

The city is "hanging a single officer out to dry rather than holding their supervisors and administrators accountable for what appears to be a pervasive and systematic failure to train and supervise their narcotics officers," he said.

Pyle stressed that no decision about Cowley's employment status has been made. Even if a recommendation had been made, he said, it still has several steps to go through before it would be approved.

The council will take about two weeks to look over the proposed changes to the citizen review board before deciding whether to approve it.

West Valley also received criticism Tuesday night from one of its own. Phil Conder, a longtime resident and a member of the city's Planning Commission, voiced his displeasure with the police department and called for the resignations of Pyle and acting Chief Anita Schwemmer.

"It is very disconcerting to me that so much positive that is happening in West Valley City can be offset by actions of our police department," he said. "My personal interaction tells me there are systemic problems in the West Valley City Police Department and the problems are condoned at the highest levels. ... I and many other have lost confidence in our police force."

Conder reportedly had had a run-in with West Valley police and was not pleased with the end result, even after it went through the review process. Pyle called Conder's recounting of the situation "unfair and incorrect."

Winder said Wednesday that the city has officially opened the process of finding a new police chief. Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen retired in March after 33 years of police service after undergoing back surgery.

Winder said the city will be collecting the names of potential candidates for 60 days and start whittling down the pool down after that. Applications will be accepted both from officers within the department, in Utah and outside the state, he said.

A new chief, the mayor said, is expected to add "fresh leadership" and bring a "new tone" to the department.

E-mail: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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