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Losing our trust

Published May 27, 2013 3:05 pm

Justice flawed from top down
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

What's going on with law enforcement in this country? A justice system's foundation is trust: Citizens must be able to rely on attorneys, judges, courts and cops to do their jobs with some level of integrity or the whole thing falls apart.

In the past days, weeks and months, Americans, and Utahns in particular, would not be paying attention if they did not sense that sort of disintegration.

From the U.S. attorney general down to West Valley City and Ogden police and court officials, our law enforcement agents' competence and motives are in question.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly signed off on a search warrant more than two years ago that targeted a Fox News reporter and his sources. More recently, the federal Justice Department seized records of 20 office and home phone lines for Associated Press reporters and editors. The Obama administration has been downright paranoiac about possible leaks to reporters to the point of neglecting its duty to the Constitution.

Now the president wants Holder to investigate his own conduct and the role of his department in trying to stop reporters from using sources within the government to keep tabs on our leaders, as reporters should be doing. If he wants to re-establish trust, he's got to do better than that.

While President Obama said in a speech last week that the government should focus on lawbreakers and let the press do its job, the actions of his attorney general and Justice Department say something quite different.

Closer to home, Utah Attorney General John Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, are the subjects of an array of investigations into their associations with criminal types the AG's office investigated or was likely to investigate. Nearly every news cycle brings another story about allegations into misbehavior by these two close friends.

West Valley, Utah's second-largest city, is trying to mop up after a narcotics unit botched investigations, leading to nearly 100 cases being dismissed by the Salt Lake County district attorney and the U.S. attorney's office. A young woman is dead at the hands of two members of the unit, and the city, after nearly six months, has not explained how or why it happened.

The disappearance of Susan Powell from West Valley three years ago apparently will remain unsolved, but her husband and two young sons are dead. The failings of the WVPD raise questions about whether better police work could have saved those children.

And in Ogden, a young man who pleaded not guilty to murdering a young police officer during a violent raid on his home last year apparently committed suicide in the Weber County Jail.

Too many unanswered questions. Too little deserving of our trust.