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Discipline for narcotics cop had to send message, official testifies

Civil Service Hearing » Asked to testify, Tribune reporter is pulled from civil service hearing.

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Strindberg also questioned why Coyle’s supervisors were never disciplined and why Sgt. Michael Johnson, who oversaw many of the day-to-day operations of the narcotics unit, received only a 40-hour suspension.

Marx explained Tuesday that the difference was "in level of responsibility and difference in acceptance of responsibility and the understanding he had of the ramifications for the events." Marx added that a lieutenant has a greater accountability than a sergeant.

At a glance

Tribune reporter removed from covering hearing

The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday removed reporter Janelle Stecklein from covering a West Valley City Civil Service Commission hearing for demoted police officer John Coyle after the officer’s attorney said he planned to call Stecklein as a witness.

Attorney Erik Strindberg told Stecklein he planned to call her to testify in connection with a story she wrote in November about the city turning over the internal affairs statements of officers who were members of the city’s narcotics unit to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Stecklein, who had not been subpoenaed, left the West Valley City municipal building before being directly asked to testify.

Tribune Editor and Publisher Terry Orme said it was necessary to remove Stecklein from the hearing because she had become part of the story.

“A reporter can’t participate in an event he or she is covering,” Orme said. ”We pulled Janelle Stecklein out of that civil service hearing on the advice of our attorney because we wanted to have the right to object to becoming a participant in a story that The Tribune has covered extensively.”

The Tribune assigned another reporter to cover the hearing.

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"All [of] this that had been brought down on the department and officers was preventable," Marx said Tuesday.

The city’s probe followed the November 2012 shooting death of 21-year-old Danielle Willard by a member of the narcotics unit — a shooting deemed unjustified by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Strindberg had planned to call other members of the nine-member narcotics unit, but by Tuesday afternoon, seven of the officers had refused to testify, asserting their Fifth Amendment right against incriminating themselves.

Strindberg had complained Monday that the officers’ refusal to testify would make it hard to defend Coyle against the allegations leveled by the city because he would not be able to cross-examine the officers about their internal affairs interviews.


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