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Former members of West Valley City Neighborhood Narcotics Unit back on job

Four members of the West Valley Police Department's former Neighborhood Narcotics Unit are back on the job.
Four members of the West Valley Police Department's former Neighborhood Narcotics Unit are back on the job.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Four members of the West Valley City Police Department's former Neighborhood Narcotics Unit are back on the job.

The city announced Wednesday that four members of the unit had been investigated and reprimanded for their actions, but ultimately cleared to return to work.

"They are cleared, and they are back to full duty. There was a minor level of discipline, basically at the reprimand level," said West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle. "We really didn't find anything (from a) serious wrongdoing standpoint. Did they do something that wasn't all that wise and therefore required some kind of counseling? Yes. Thus the reprimand."

The embattled Neighborhood Narcotics Unit was shut down in December while West Valley police were internally investigating the fatal shooting of Danielle Willard by detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon. Items of evidence that did not involve the Willard case were discovered in Cowley's car trunk.

Cowley and Salmon have been on paid administrative leave since November. They were not among the four who returned to duty Wednesday.

As the investigation into the narcotics unit grew, West Valley officials found several areas of concern, including undisclosed amounts of missing drugs and money, small amounts of cash and other items taken from the seized vehicles, officers taking "trophies, trinkets or souvenirs" from drug-related crime scenes, and officers using GPS trackers without first securing a warrant.

In April, because of growing allegations of systemic corruption, cover-up and public perception about the actions of the narcotics unit, seven additional officers from the former unit were also placed on paid leave.

The probe into Cowley, Salmon and the former Neighborhood Narcotics Unit has also resulted in a total of 124 state and federal cases linked to the unit being thrown out of court because of credibility issues.

With the exception of Cowley and Salmon, Pyle said the investigations into the other three remaining officers still on leave will be completed soon. He said there could be further action taken against those officers, depending on their degree of involvement and severity of their violations.

As for Cowley and Salmon, they also have the internal investigation into the shooting ongoing. The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office recently ruled that the shooting was not justified. District Attorney Sim Gill will now decide whether criminal charges should be filed.

Pyle, however, said whether Cowley and Salmon are cleared to return to work will not hinge on when Gill completes his investigation.

"The decision for that will be made as we go through our own process," he said.

As for getting four officers back on the street, Pyle said the it's something the short-handed department has been looking forward to.

"(We're) very happy to have the four of them back. We are saddened by the fact we've had this much problem and controversy over time. But I'm also glad for the result of these four officers who have gone through the investigative process and can be brought back and can be brought back into full participation without further issue," he said.

Because there is no longer a narcotics unit, Pyle said the four officers would return to either the patrol or investigation divisions.


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