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Trib Talk: West Valley City's embattled police department

Published May 7, 2013 12:30 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As West Valley City seeks to move forward from the scandals roiling its police department's narcotics unit, the city's mayor said Tuesday that he's looking at the entire department to ensure such embarrassments won't happen again.

Mayor Mike Winder joined Salt Lake Tribune Reporter Janelle Stecklein in a live online chat via the Tribune's website Tuesday morning to discuss the future of the city's embattled police department. The forum was moderated by Tribune Reporter Jennifer Napier-Pearce, who asked her own questions and also passed along queries from online users through Twitter, Google+ and the Tribune's comments section.

"Cleary there's impropriety going on," Winder said. "Our own internal audit uncovered that."

In April, after its own internal audit of the department's Neighborhood Narcotics Unit, the city announced that several officers from that unit, which was disbanded in December, would be placed on paid leave after officials learned of a culture of evidence tampering and keeping "trophies" from drug busts. So far, at least nine officers have been put on leave, Stecklein said.

Since then, the city has looked at other units in the department, Winder said, and the mayor assured that no impropriety seemed to be evident in other units.

"The problem's been solved," Winder said, asserting that the cases being dealt with now are from a few years ago. Still, he said he understood that the city and its police would be under a lot more scrutiny in the future.

"We do have confidence that our best days are ahead," he said.

In the wake of the department's scandals, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has dismissed more than 100 cases coming out of the department, most of them drug-related. Gill, who was supposed to participate in the discussion Tuesday, was not at the chat because of a scheduling conflict.

Stecklein said that the DA's office also is reviewing 400 active cases that haven't been adjudicated. On Sunday, Stecklein reported that Gill's office also will take up the review of some drug cases that have been adjudicated. The U.S. Attorney's office also has dismissed eight drug cases originating in West Valley City.

Stecklein also said that the department has been the subject of an FBI probe, although it wasn't known how long that investigation has been going on or what sparked it. So far, Stecklein said, the scandals and investigations seem to be coming only from the narcotics unit.

"As far as we know there's no other issues with the rest of the department," she said.

kbennion@sltrib.com

Twitter: @KimballBennion