West Valley City and Latino groups sign police pact
West Valley City • City officials and Latino groups signed an agreement Tuesday designed to restore the community's trust in police through "cultural competency" training of officers and other staffers.
In addition, acting West Valley City Police Chief Anita Schwemmer has agreed to personally handle community complaints about supervisory staff in her department.
The city described the agreement as a first-of-its-kind in Utah.
"We are pleased to have developed this plan with the Latino community to help us improve our relationship not only with them but with the other diverse communities throughout our city," Schwemmer said.
Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said he appreciates the city working with the community.
"In my view, they have restored confidence and credibility," Yapias said. "Hopefully, this can serve as an example of how cities and communities can work together."
The agreement came out of a discussion in May that was mediated by U.S. Department of Justice representatives and attended by West Valley City officials and Latino leaders. The meeting focused on the dismissal of scores of drug cases because of alleged mishandling of evidence and concerns about racial profiling.
In other provisions of the plan:
• The police department will provide online access to its citizen complaint form, which will be translated into Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages.
• The police department will provide the Latino organizations with data on race and ethnic staffing demographics, officer recruitment methods and a breakdown of how many of 124 dismissed drug cases involved Latinos.
• The city, Proyecto Latino and Utah Coalition of La Raza will hold community meetings to open communications between police and residents.
• Proyecto Latino will hold "Know Your Rights" forums to help foster public understanding of law-enforcement procedures.
• Utah Coalition of La Raza will inform the police department of opportunities to further strengthen its relations with the Latino community.
Mayor Mike Winder applauded the agreement.
"I consider it progress whenever we can work with groups to better understand their needs and improve police work," he said.
Also Tuesday, the West Valley City Council ratified City Manager Wayne Pyle's appointments to the Professional Standards Review Board (PSRB). Board members review all uses of force by the police, vehicular pursuits and internal-affairs investigations of officers and make recommendations to the police chief on whether to take disciplinary action.
Fia Fafai, a court interpreter in the Samoan language, and Abigail Dizon-Maughan, an attorney who serves as chairwoman of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP Criminal Justice Committee, were newly appointed to the board. Current members Cloyd Bell and Joan McCreedy Burrell were reappointed.
The appointees' terms run until July 1, 2015. The other members of the board are Dean Trump, Amalia Momberger and Jeanetta Williams.