In December, West Valley City disbanded its drug unit. The unit was eliminated after a police scandal erupted surrounding a November police shooting where an unarmed woman was killed. But, in March, the Salt Lake County district attorney dropped 19 criminal cases for a lack of credible evidence to support the charges. The 19 cases involved allegations of drug crimes, and the cases reportedly all were West Valley City investigations.
Officials in West Valley say that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate potential corruption in the now disbanded drug unit. More than one official issued a press release concerning calling in the FBI to look at civil rights and corruption issues. The West Valley Police chief says that the department has been in touch with the FBI, but wants independent eyes to investigate the issues. The Salt Lake County District Attorney also says that the FBI investigation is needed.
The 19 cases that were dropped last month arose from investigations from 2008 through 2012. The Daily Herald reports that most of the criminal cases involved alleged drug crimes. Some were already slated for trial, while others were in the early stages before being dropped.
It is important to remember that our criminal justice system is set up to protect a defendant’s due process rights and other constitutional rights. An allegation in a criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt for a reason. Often, when a criminal case is dismissed by the court, the court of public comment may tend to refer to the legal decision as a technicality. But, like the FBI investigation that officials hope will maintain transparency in the system, criminal defense lawyers seek to maintain the integrity of the constitutional process through vigorously arguing legal principles in court to protect rights of the accused.
Source: Daily Herald, “FBI to investigate Utah police department,” Associated Press, April 4, 2013