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Let it go

Published April 27, 2013 1:01 am

WVC charges should stay dropped
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The addiction of some public officials to the war on drugs is so overwhelming that folks in West Valley City are actually considering reviving some of the nearly 100 criminal cases that have been dropped by either the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office of the local U.S. Attorney for being irredeemably tainted.

This is a bad idea.

If the people in charge of city government in West Valley City want their review of those cases, and their pledged efforts to reform the city's scandal-wracked police department, to have any credibility, they will realize that those cases are dead horses and stop trying to ride them.

It is to the eternal credit of both levels of prosecutors that, rather than drag 88 state and 10 federal cases into court and dare defense lawyers (often overworked public defenders) to point out the flaws, they put their duty to the law ahead of their eagerness to put away more alleged druggies.

As explained by District Attorney Sim Gill, evidence of rampant misbehavior by some officers on the since disbanded WVCPD Neighborhood Narcotics Unit is so obvious that any case based on those officers' investigations and testimony would be too toxic to touch.

The most disturbing incident, of course, involves two members of that squad who were involved in the shooting death of an unarmed and, for all anyone has been able to determine, unthreatening 21-year-old woman who had allegedly been part of a drug deal those officers had been investigating. But the city's own review uncovered a series of bad deeds that included mishandling evidence and the possibility that some of the drugs and money seized by members of that unit have gone missing.

City officials deserve credit for ordering that audit, and for their further determination to appoint an independent review panel to suggest deeper reforms in their police department. But word the other day that the same panel could also consider refiling some of the cases that the county and the feds have dropped suggests that officials there still do not fully grasp the seriousness of the situation.

Prosecutors don't drop the charges in this many felony cases because of some spelling errors or missing paperwork. They do it when the facts leave them with cases that are so poisonous that their professional and personal consciences won't allow them to proceed.

West Valley City should take those facts to heart as they review the situation. The facts of the individual cases should be a map for reviewers to find out what went wrong, not to claim that they were right all along.




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