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Statement: Cowley attorneys on his termination

Posted at 5:26 PM, Apr 05, 2013

This is a statement from Bret Rawson and Lindsay Jarvis, attorneys for West Valley City Police Det. Shaun Cowley.

On April 4th, 2013, the West Valley City Police Department informed Detective Shaun Cowley of their intent to terminate his employment with West Valley City within the next 7-10 days. In response to this decision, the Fraternal Order of Police through its General Counsel, Bret Rawson, and in accordance with Mr. Cowley’s attorney, Lindsay Jarvis, respond accordingly:

“On April 3rd, 2013, the West Valley City Police Department, amidst political pressure from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the family of Danielle Willard, publicly announced their request for assistance from the F.B.I to investigate allegations of corruption associated with their Department and in particular, the Neighborhood Narcotic’s Unit.

Ironically, On April 4th, 2013, just one day after this public announcement, the West Valley City Police Department met with Detective Shaun Cowley and informed him of their intent to terminate his employment with the City based on an series of internal affairs investigations the Department has conducted since the officer-involved shooting of Danielle Willard. The Police Department cited issues of “mishandling evidence, insubordination, and derelection of duty.”

The timing of this decision is extremely suspect considering the FBI was “voluntarily enrolled” to conduct these types of investigations on behalf of the Department given questions that have come to light in recent weeks. Yet one day after the announcement, and without the assistance of the FBI, West Valley City has communicated their intent to terminate Detective Cowley without input or assistance from the FBI.

It is our position that the FBI investigation into the West Valley City Neighborhood Narcotics Unit will reveal practices and customs within the unit that are inconsistent with policies and procedures associated with law enforcement within the State of Utah. However, it will also reveal that at all times, Detective Cowley, at the direction of his superiors, and in accordance with his training, or in this case, lack of training, acted in accordance with the standards set forth by the West Valley City Police Department.

The most ironic part of the West Valley City Police Department’s intention to terminate is that it’s decision is based primarily on an internal audit of the Neighborhood Narcotic’s Unit, which was conducted by two members of the Department who may be culpable themselves for failing to train and supervise the detectives in the unit.

This is a sad day for the West Valley City Police Department, as it suggests the Department is more interested in hanging a single officer out to dry rather than holding their supervisors and administrators accountable for what appears to be a pervasive and systematic failure to train and supervise their narcotics officers.

It is extremely unfortunate because Detective Cowley did the best he could with the training he received. These facts will emerge when a public administrative proceeding occurs, and Detective Cowley appeals the City’s expected “decision to terminate.”

Finally, it is completely inappropriate that the West Valley City Police Department has now added an internal affairs investigation and made a sustained finding of insubordination in relation to Detective Cowley’s participation in a taped-interview on Fox 13, last week. Detective Cowley has a First Amendment right to speech, and in no way did he disobey an order to not talk about the Officer Involved Shooting – in fact he refused to answer questions about it. The move to terminate him for defending himself publicly, is suspect and unnecessary. A better solution is to await the outcome of the FBI’s investigation before jumping to any conclusions regarding culpability.”