A ninth West Valley City police officer has been disciplined in connection with West Valley City’s now-disbanded Neighborhood Narcotics Unit.
West Valley police Sgt. Jason Hauer was suspended in late October for 40 hours without pay for mishandling money belonging to a confidential informant, according to discipline records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune as part of an open records request.
But the discipline involved a February 2010 incident, which occurred years before the 2012 scandal rocked the narcotics unit and led to its disbanding in December 2012.
According to the Oct. 31 discipline letter written by West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo, in February 2010, Hauer "inappropriately took possession of monies belonging to a confidential informant without a legitimate or lawful purpose."
Russo wrote that Hauer then inappropriately used $500 of the $1,200 he seized from the confidential informant in a law enforcement-led drug transaction to pay a drug dealer targeted in the probe.
"Although eventually $1,200 of the informant’s money was returned to her, $111 of the informant’s money remains unaccounted for," Russo wrote.
Russo said Tuesday that confidential informant’s money was found uninventoried in an envelope inside a safe as far back as 2011 — long after Hauer had been promoted to sergeant and transferred out of the unit.
But the internal affairs investigation languished, and it took the department years to mete out any sort of punishment before it crossed Russo’s desk in October.
"Nobody should have to wait that long for an internal affairs investigation to complete," Russo said Tuesday. "It does no good for anybody to have something sitting out there that long. It’s supposed to be swift and reasonable."
Russo said just before he was hired in August to replace retired Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen, the matter was presented to the city’s Professional Standards Review Board, who recommended a letter of counseling and training.
But Russo said he looked at the issue and determined it needed more formal discipline, which he implemented and Hauer did not appeal.
Russo said since he was hired, he has implemented a policy that internal affairs now has 45 days to investigate any complaints so they’re not hanging over an officer’s head for months, or in this case, years.
In Hauer’s case, he had most recently served in the high-profile role as West Valley City police spokesman. He has since been assigned to patrol and is no longer serving as spokesman.
He has had no other discipline during his employment with West Valley City except for a written reprimand for a vehicle crash, records released by the department show.
His suspension marks the ninth time this year a West Valley City officer has been disciplined connected to the narcotics unit.
Eight of the nine officers most recently assigned to the unit were found to have mishandled evidence, inappropriately used GPS tracking devices, kept trophies, or removed change and other property from suspect’s vehicles.
The ensuing fallout resulted in the dismissals of more than 120 state and federal cases linked to officers in the unit.
Detective Shaun Cowley, who also is accused of firing the fatal shot that killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard during an alleged drug bust, was fired for mishandling evidence and unaccounted for money. He was not fired for the Willard shooting, which Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill found to be unjustified. The unit’s former lieutenant, John Coyle, was demoted.
Both men are appealing their disciplinary action before the city’s Civil Service Commission and are scheduled to have hearings early in 2014.
Sgt. Michael Johnson was suspended for 80 hours for failing to provide proper supervision.
Detective Ricardo Franco was suspended for 40 hours without pay because he failed to book evidence "properly and in a timely manner." He also used GPS trackers on suspected drug traffickers’ vehicles before he said he was properly trained on the matter.Next Page >
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.