WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – After more than two dozen cases from the West Valley City Police Department’s Neighborhood Narcotics Unit were dropped, many say there are systemic problems within the department, but West Valley City’s retired police chief says that isn’t the case.
The department is now being investigated by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the FBI after 19 cases connected to Det. Shaun Cowley were dropped because of lack of substantial evidence.
Cowley was then connected to the Nov. 2 fatal shooting of Danielle Willard and allegations of corruption and cover ups began to arise.
But former West Valley City Police Chief Thayle “Buzz” Nielsen says those allegations aren’t true, and even though he’s been advised not to speak to the media, Nielsen says he’s sick of people trashing his former department.
“Are there systemic problems there? No, No. I didn’t see any of that. And if we would’ve seen something like this…we came across this and we said, ‘This could be something, let’s take a look, let’s be thorough and do the right thing and that’s what we did,'” Nielsen said.
Nielsen says an internal investigation into Cowley and the neighborhood narcotics unit showed the department needed outside eyes on the case, and local and federal agencies began to investigate.
“And it was tough and we had outside agencies help us and we were moving down that path, but we were the ones who initiated the investigations,” Nielsen said.
The neighborhood narcotics unit was dissolved in December and steps were taken to fire Cowley, who has been on paid administrative leave since the Willard shooting.
Cowley denies any wrongdoing and his attorneys are accusing the West Valley City Police Dept. of making him their scapegoat.
“When everything’s said and done and all the evidence comes out, I have no doubts I will be exonerated,” Cowley said in an exclusive interview with FOX 13 on March 26.
Nielsen says he doesn’t know the current status of the various investigations, but he feels his former department will come out stronger as a result.
“But there is no conspiracy, I mean it just takes time to go through all that stuff. But the truth is the truth and we’ll find out what that is,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen retired nearly two months ago, citing a lengthy recovery from back surgery. Some said the timing of the retirement was suspicious as allegations against the department began to come to light, but he says doctors told him in January that recovery from the surgery they’d performed would take at least six months.