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Fired West Valley City detective was a scapegoat, says his lawyer


By Erin Alberty

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Sep 25 2013 08:05PM
Updated Sep 26, 2013 08:05AM

Former West Valley City police Detective Shaun Cowley is appealing his firing, claiming he was a "scapegoat" of the department following allegations of misconduct, corruption, mishandling of evidence and cover-ups in narcotics cases.

In a notice of appeal sent Wednesday, Cowley’s attorney Lindsay Jarvis alleged that the city fired Cowley to relieve the department of paying him while he was on administrative leave following what was deemed the unjustified fatal shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Willard during an alleged drug bust last November.

"Terminating Detective Cowley now, based on these performance-related issues, relieves the city of at least one of its financial burdens," Jarvis wrote.

The city fired Cowley on Sept. 12, citing only "terminable offenses." Jarvis claims Cowley was fired over improperly-handled drug case evidence that was found in Cowley’s trunk after Willard’s shooting — a "performance" mistake, not "misconduct."

"Termination for procedural violations is both excessive and disproportionate," she wrote, claiming that Cowley’s firing defies a pattern of lenience in the department.

"Officers who commit even the most egregious of actions have failed to be terminated," she wrote. Jarvis is traveling out of country and could not be reached for comment as to which specific actions did not result in termination.

She also said Cowley’s mistakes were due to a lack of training and supervision on the part of the department.

West Valley City disbanded the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit in December following the discovery of the evidence in Cowley’s trunk. Seven of the nine members have been reinstated to the police department. Cowley and Detective Kevin Salmon still are under investigation for their role in the Willard shooting as prosecutors mull possible charges. Salmon remains on paid administrative leave.

West Valley City police administrators could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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