Case of embattled West Valley City detective pulled from review board agenda
A citizen board that evaluates complaints against West Valley City police officers met Thursday but did not consider the case of Detective Shaun Cowley, one of two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Danielle Willard in November.
A press release issued Thursday by the city's police department said Cowley's case was pulled from the agenda of the city's Professional Standards Review Board (PSRB) "in an effort to weigh all possible outcomes at this time."
City manager Wayne Pyle declined to elaborate on the release.
Cowley, formerly a member of the city's narcotics squad, is under investigation for his involvement in the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Willard. Also, more than a dozen criminal cases in which he was involved have been dismissed by the Salt Lake County District Attorney due to "credibility" issues.
While District Attorney Sim Gill has not described the problems with those cases, former West Valley City Police Chief Buzz Nielsen said in an interview Wednesday with KUTV that he ordered an internal audit of the narcotics unit after the Willard shooting. During the course of a probe into that shooting, investigators found evidence from four unrelated cases in the trunk of Cowley's vehicle, dating back about a year, which should have been in the evidence room, Nielsen said.
Cowley has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, along with another detective who also shot Willard, Kevin Salmon.
Cowley's attorney, Lindsay Jarvis, has confirmed that her client was involved in "policy violations" but said none were criminal in nature. She also said those unspecified "policy violations" were widespread across the narcotics unit, which the police department disbanded in December, citing unspecified concerns.
Cowley was told that his case would be on the review board's agenda on Thursday, according to Jarvis, who said Tuesday that West Valley City officials informed Cowley the board will consider 64 counts to terminate his employment.
The PSRB "reviews all uses of force, citizen complaints and internal affairs investigations," according to a memo written by city attorney Eric Bunderson.
The PSRB has no authority to fire an officer but can make recommendations on personnel issues.
City Council members have directed Pyle to come up with ways to improve the review board. In a March 25 letter to the city manager, Mayor Mike Winder and the other six council members said they were frustrated with the recent police incidents.
The memo from Bunderson recommended a number of changes to how the board operates, including more aggressively publicizing how citizens can file a complaint, and creating a written set of rules to make board operations more efficient and transparent.
Jarvis has questioned why the PSRB was considering Cowley's case so quickly, given the City Council's directive to make changes in how it operates.