West Valley City • Police announced Tuesday that their audit of more than 200 sex and domestic violence cases found issues with 15 cases.
Five of the cases were screened by prosecutors and sent back for follow up, which never happened, said West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo during a news conference. The other 10 were listed by one detective as having been screened by prosecutors, but prosecutors had no record of ever seeing those cases, Russo said.
Russo said those 10 cases have been forwarded to internal affairs to determine if the detective made accidental oversights or purposely failed to screen the cases.
The department launched the audit just before Thanksgiving after a person identifying themselves at a West Valley City employee contacted The Salt Lake Tribune alleging a detective in the sex crimes/domestic violence unit had improperly investigated and closed cases. The Tribune then contacted Russo to report the allegations.
All detectives who worked in the unit have either since resigned from the department or been transferred to other divisions.
Russo would not identify which detective was linked to the 10 cases that were never screened, but said it was the same employee in all 10 instances, and that he or she now works in the patrol division. The issues resulted in delays, but will not prevent prosecution.
Russo said that, in all, they reviewed 260 criminal cases, most of which involved misdemeanor domestic violence crimes. He said that the vast majority had been investigated and screened properly.
The five cases "that fell through the cracks" were immediately reassigned, the investigations completed and turned over the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
"Failing these victims was inexcusable and cannot be tolerated," Russo said in a written statement.
All the issues with the cases occurred before Russo was hired in August.
"Although I was pleased to find in a majority of the cases reviewed that our officers acted professionally and appropriately, we did nonetheless fail to meet our service expectation in a few instances which is unacceptable," Russo said in the statement.
Russo said the audit revealed that some of the department’s processes and practices need to be changed, and his agency is working with the DA’s Office to create a better system for monitoring the cases to make sure they never again slip through the cracks.
Meanwhile, a department-wide audit of all criminal cases within the past year continues. Russo hopes that audit, involving more than 1,300 cases, will be finished in January.
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