WVC mayor: We're on the case
As the revelations of problems with our Neighborhood Narcotics Unit have come to our attention and that of the public, we are all very shocked, disappointed and frustrated.
As a result, West Valley City is taking five major steps to help identify what went wrong, to correct it, and to make sure that such behaviors do not happen again:
1. Identify and root out all impropriety. Our city's internal investigation identified specific problems. I welcome the FBI's independent investigation to make sure that our team did not miss anything. I appreciate the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office looking closely at all of the cases involved.
In the meantime, we placed the entire narcotics unit on administrative leave until these issues are sorted out. Individuals will be held accountable for improper actions and any necessary corrective action will be taken.
2. Strengthen independent oversight. Our Professional Standards Review Board needs to be stronger and more transparent.
On Tuesday, our City Council put in guidelines to improve this police review board. We are incorporating best practices from cities around the nation to ensure that we have rigorous training, clear policies and published reports.
3. Exhibit humility to learn from others and improve. We announced last week that we have commissioned a special review panel made up of a former district attorney, a retired judge, and legal and police expertise to review each case that has been dismissed by the district attorney.
We have asked the panel to provide us with their expert opinions on what we can learn from these cases.
We are also creating a Police and Public Safety Advancement Task Force, which will examine potential partnerships and collaborations with other law enforcement agencies.
4. Hire new police department leadership. It is critical that we have leadership that views with seriousness any breach of protocol, that has a firm handle on what is going on in the department, and that can quickly correct anything that is out of line.
To this end we are conducting a nationwide search for a new police chief, who will be chosen and sworn in this summer. This will bring a new tone to the West Valley City Police Department.
5. Remember the big picture. The cases being dismissed are related to a single unit, a handful of officers. The remaining 180 members of our police department continue to be engaged every day in top-notch police work. This is the team that is helping to reduce crime in our city.
The total number of violent and property crimes was 11 percent lower last year than four years ago, before I took office as mayor. Police calls at Valley Fair Mall are down 75 percent.
We hate to see even one case dismissed. Ever. But let us remember that this team sees several thousand cases successfully prosecuted each year, and this year will be no exception.
West Valley City will not stand down, but we will stand tall. This city has had its share of challenges through the years and each time we have worked through them.
We do not like the situation we are in today, but we are working hard in so many ways to get through it.
Our residents can have confidence that their city leaders are doing everything they can.
With these actions, I am confident that we can serve the residents, businesses and visitors to our city better than ever.
Mike Winder is the mayor of West Valley City.