The months-long scandal in the West Valley City Police Department saw some good news Tuesday, as law enforcement officials and representatives of the Latino community signed an agreement that they say will begin to rebuild trust in the police.
Earlier this year we learned that the West Valley Police Department had so badly mishandled narcotics evidence, that over a hundred 98 state and federal drug cases had been dismissed. The scandal deepened, leaving in its trail nine officers on administrative leave, an internal audit, the disbanding of the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit, and an FBI investigation into whether there was corruption involved and/or if there had been a cover-up in the November 2012 shooting death of Danielle Willard.
In addition, serious questions were raised about whether racial profiling of Hispanic Utahns had been involved, resulting in serious damage to the relationship between the Latino community and law enforcement.
Hoping to rebuild that relationship, West Valley City officials and representatives from the Latino groups Proyecto Latino and the Utah Coalition of La Raza began meeting.
According to a press release from West Valley City, the parties successfully signed a document Tuesday described as a “first of its kind” for Utah, which outlines a plan to ease tensions.
“I think this is a step in the right direction towards bridging the gap between the West Valley City Police Department, the Latino community, and the community at large,” says Angela Romero, who serves as a Democrat in the Utah House of Representatives and also sits on the board of the Utah Coalition of La Raza.
The signed document includes the following provisions:
- West Valley City will provide Cultural Competency Training for all city staff on a department-to-department basis.
- The West Valley City Police Department will utilize the assistance of Utah Coalition of La Raza to review Police Department policy.
- The West Valley City Police Department, Proyecto Latino and Utah Coalition of La Raza will collaborate and hold community meetings that foster community trust, improve open communications and strengthen community relations.
- West Valley city commits to fully re-staff the West Valley City Police Department to or exceeding 2013 staffing levels of 188 FTE.
- The West Valley City Police Chief will personally handle and resolve all community complaints on supervisory staff of the West Valley City Police Department.
- The West Valley City Police Department will provide online access to the department’s Citizen Complaint Form, and will translate the form into Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages as appropriate.
- The West Valley City Police Department will provide Utah Coalition of La Raza and Proyecto Latino with data on Police Department race and ethnic staffing demographics, a summary of officer recruitment methods and a breakdown of how many of the 124 cases involving Latinos were dismissed through April 17, 2013.
- Proyecto Latino will hold public “Know Your Rights Forum(s)” for Latino community members to help foster a better understanding of law enforcement procedures and to strengthen community trust.
- The West Valley City Police Department will be provided with Cultural Competency Training models and a Police Roll Call Training version.
- Utah Coalition of La Raza will inform the West Valley City Police Department of opportunities to further strengthen Police and Latino community relations.
“We are pleased to have developed this plan with the Latino community to help us improve our relationship not only with them but with the other diverse communities throughout our city,” West Valley City Acting Police Chief Anita Schwemmer said in the release. “We appreciate every individual who has worked with us to share their invaluable experience and expertise.”
“This all boils down towards rebuilding trust in law enforcement, because that had been lost. It’s important to rebuild that trust and understanding between the community and the law enforcement that should be there to protect us all,” Romero added.