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Closing arguments held for demoted WVC officer

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Posted at 11:41 AM, Jan 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-30 20:48:00-05

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Closing arguments are being made for and against a demoted West Valley City officer.

John Coyle headed up West Valley City's now-defunct Neighborhood Narcotics Unit. The unit was disbanded after facing multiple allegations of misconduct, including the November 2012 shooting death of 21-year-old Danielle Willard, which was deemed unjustified. More than 100 of the unit's cases were later dismissed.

According to West Valley City’s investigation, Coyle’s demotion from Lieutenant to officer was a result of his failure to supervise proper documentation of evidence and failure to supervise proper use of force.

"Indeed, John Coyle's failure of leadership allowed an entire unit to fail. A catastrophic breakdown in the department, a breakdown that could've been avoided if John Coyle had been a capable lieutenant," said Martha Stonebrook, West Valley City Public Safety attorney.

Coyle is fighting the demotion, saying there was plenty of blame to go around. His attorney told commissioners that there is no hard evidence to prove Coyle allowed money and property to be taken out of seized cars, that he failed to properly supervise the booking of evidence and that he failed to supervise proper use of force.

"It's simply unfair, it's arbitrary and capricious under the circumstances and totally inconsistent to demote two steps down when those below him essentially got a slap on the wrist," said Erik Strindberg, Coyle's attorney.

But city officials say those under Coyle have accepted responsibility for their actions, while he not only refused to accept blame, but deflected it onto his subordinates.

The commissioners will now take the matter under advisement. It's unknown when they'll make their final ruling.