WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - West Valley City Police Chief Thayle "Buzz" Nielsen is retiring, citing medical reasons in his decision.
Nielsen joined the West Valley City Police Dept. in 1980 and was appointed chief in 2002. He says he recently underwent extensive surgery, and is stepping down to recover.
Nielsen's tenure as chief includes the still-unsolved Dec. 2009 disappearance of Susan Powell.
More than three years after she went missing, Susan's father Chuck Cox says he still has faith that West Valley City police will be able to figure out what happened to Susan even though the department's top cop is gone.
"He's really done everything he can to resolve the issue to find my daughter," Cox said. "They're not giving up and I don't think Chief Nielsen retiring will have an impact on them whether they're going to investigate the case or not."
But the mother of Danielle Willard, the unarmed woman who was shot and killed by a West Valley City Police officer last November, says the timing is convenient.
"It''s just interesting, what a coincidence, the timing because he's right in the middle of a big case with my daughter Danielle," Melissa Kennedy said.
Police don't dispute that one of their officers killed Danielle, but Kennedy and other members of the community are upset with the lack of information West Valley City police have released.
"You would think he would want to finish up a big case before he retires," she said.
But Nielsen had on-going back problems and city leaders say he had extensive surgery two weeks ago. West Valley City Manger Wayne Pyle says that they'd hoped he'd be able to recover and return to the job, but instead, Nielsen retired.
City officials say that despite the looming controversy surrounding the Powell and Willard cases, Nielsen was both competent and committed.
"His institutional memory is huge for the city. He's been here pretty much the whole time the city's been incorporated," Pyle said.
A captain with the department is the acting chief while the city finds a permanent replacement. Next week, officials will decide whether they plan to promote from within or start a national search.