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DOJ to host private meeting with West Valley City police and activists

Published May 9, 2013 2:49 pm

Civil rights • Two groups that filed a complaint want their concerns addressed.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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 Department of Justice's Community Relations Service will facilitate a meeting between community leaders and the West Valley Police Department next week after two groups that represent minorities in Utah filed a complaint alleging civil rights violations.

Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said his group and the Utah Coalition of La Raza filed a complaint alleging possible racial profiling and civil rights violations after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill in March dismissed 19 cases linked to the disbanded West Valley City Narcotics Unit.

Yapias said the majority of the defendants in those cases were minorities.

He said the Wednesday meeting, which is not open to the public, is slated to last for four hours, though he's hoping it will be significantly shorter.

"I just have a few questions," Yapias said. "I don't need a congress where the senators go for hours."

His biggest issue: How to rebuild trust in the community.

"There's a lot of distrust from Latinos of the police department right now," he said. "Let's look at the future. Let's look at what needs to be done in the future."

The narcotics unit has been under fire — and the subject of internal, state and federal probes — since the fatal officer-involved shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Willard in November during an alleged drug bust.

In April, after its internal audit of the department's Neighborhood Narcotics Unit, the city announced that several officers from that unit, which was disbanded in December, would be placed on paid leave after officials learned of a culture of evidence tampering and keeping "trophies" from drug busts. So far, nine officers have been put on leave while the investigation continues.

Since March, 125 cases linked to the unit have been dismissed in state and federal court.


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