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Editorial: Good cops (West Valley City) and bad cops (Layton)

Published October 17, 2016 5:36 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Good cops: In West Valley City, Police Chief Lee Russo is pushing to shift public confidence in his department from very low to incredibly high.

The WVCPD is in the final stages of its quest to become a nationally certified department, a status only 5 percent of the nation's law enforcement agencies achieve.

Bad cops: In Layton, it is clear that a young man working in a local Subway sandwich shop was wrongly arrested and accused of trying to poison the drink of a police officer.

Charges were never formally filed, and friends are rallying to the side of the victim of this abuse of power. But he and the rest of the community still await some word that the police there acknowledge their wrongdoing and will do something significant to make sure it doesn't happen again.

West Valley City has had an uphill climb to build up public confidence in its ability to enforce the law without fear or favor. Without, that is, people living in fear of a police culture that favors shooting first and asking questions later.

The department's narcotics unit was found to be so rife with bad actors that it was disbanded and more than 100 cases dropped. The city also found that it couldn't fire the officer it tried to hold responsible for the wrongful shooting death of a young woman because it hadn't kept proper records of its rules and disciplinary procedures.

Russo, brought in in 2013 to clean up the mess, is subjecting his officers to one of the toughest yardsticks out there, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Winning the certification is tough. And, if it gains that honor now, it risks real humiliation if it doesn't maintain the ranking in future reviews, which come every three years.

As they examine the practices and procedures in West Valley City, the CALEA examiners might stop by the cop shop in Layton, and offer a few tips about how devastating it is to anyone's life and future to be hauled into jail on, as is now apparent, utterly phony charges of spiking an officer's lemonade with methamphetamine and/or THC, the active chemical in marijuana.

Already it has become clear that the most basic evidence argued against the charge and that the Layton Police were relying on a particularly untrustworthy gadget in their search for foreign or controlled substances.

The police in this case may think they deserve praise for admitting the truth and not sticking to their original accusation just to save face. But until the community sees more evidence of some real contrition, and disciplinary action, on the part of the police, Layton Police officers are going to have a hard time getting anyone to trust them.

And, as Chief Russo knows, running a local law enforcement agency without public trust is an impossible job.






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