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Two years after shuttering its narcotics unit, West Valley City is creating a new police unit to target drug dealing and vices such as prostitution.

Police Chief Lee Russo was quick to explain in an interview Friday that the new unit will have more training and oversight than its previous incarnation, which was called the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit.

The new Vice Narcotics Unit, as it will be called, has none of the detectives who comprised the previous unit. The new unit will start this week by sending six detectives, one sergeant and one lieutenant to a school for investigators. Then unit members will go to a drug investigators school.

After that, the unit will spend about six months assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's metro task force learning the best practices for drug investigations.

"They do it well," Russo said of DEA metro. "We want to benchmark our people well."

In all, it will probably be eight months before Vice Narcotics is working by itself on the street, Russo said.

The personnel in the unit were chosen after an application and screening process that included a review of the officers' job and discipline history, Russo said. Once the Vice Narcotics Unit is operational, it will be subjected to periodic audits and reviews.

The chief said he's not aware of any other police force in the country that has trained and started a narcotics unit the way West Valley City is doing it.

"What we did in 2012 and before, we're scrapping that and starting over," Russo said.

The Neighborhood Narcotics Unit began to unravel on Nov. 2, 2012, when two detectives shot at 21-year-old Danielle Willard as she was backing out of a parking stall.

Detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon saw Willard buy heroin. Cowley contended Willard's Subaru Forester hit him and he believed he was in danger. He shot and killed Willard. The car brushed Salmon's leg and he fired and missed.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill eventually ruled the shooting was not justified under Utah law. He also charged Cowley with manslaughter. A judge later dismissed the charge.

The shooting also spurred an investigation of the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit and found problems: including unit officers' being too slow to book evidence, failing to file police reports after displaying their guns, and placing GPS tracking devices on suspects' cars without first gaining a court order to do so.

Six detectives were disciplined. And the lieutenant supervising the unit was demoted, though an appeals board overturned that decision.

Cowley was fired for having evidence in his trunk that should have been in storage. He is appealing.

Gill dismissed about 120 criminal cases investigated by the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit. Then-West Valley City police Chief Buzz Nielsen disbanded the unit shortly after the troubles were found. Nielsen retired in March 2013.

Melissa Kennedy, Willard's mother, said she has no problem with West Valley City starting a new narcotics unit, so long as the detectives are well trained.

"I'm really glad they're getting a really good amount of training," Kennedy said. "And as long as they keep that up, then I think that's a good thing."

In the two years West Valley City has not had dedicated drug detectives, narcotics arrests are only about 3 percent less than they were before, Russo said. But the department has been unable to target drug organizations, he said.

The new unit also will pursue crimes such as prostitution and gambling.

"You get tons of information from prostitutes and shoplifters," Russo said.

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