Head of disbanded WVC narcotics unit’s demotion reversed

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - The man who once led West Valley City’s now disbanded Neighborhood Narcotics Unit is celebrating a victory. John Coyle, who was demoted to a patrol officer, has been reinstated to the rank of lieutenant by West Valley City’s Civil Service Commission.

The review board determined that Lt. Coyle violated some of the police department’s policies, including failure to adequately document evidence being booked or use-of-force cases, plus inadequate supervision of the NNU. However, the board felt demotion was too severe of a punishment and inconsistent with the treatment of other officers for similar violations.

"I agree with the commission here. You have very technical violations that occurred and I think for most cities and agencies there's a principle of progressive discipline. You don't chop someone's head off because they committed a relatively minor infraction," said Erik Strindberg, Coyle’s lawyer.

The board also said there was no credible evidence Lt. Coyle’s actions were responsible for District Attorney Sim Gill dismissing more than 100 cases connected to the narcotics unit.

The three-panel board also stated that Coyle didn’t violate policies for taking cash and property from seized vehicles and the city simply didn’t present enough evidence to justify the demotion, so Coyle has been reinstated as lieutenant and he says he’s due roughly $20,000 in back pay.

"Certainly we're very frustrated and disappointed in that finding. I certainly believe that demotion in this matter was appropriate, justifiable, and warranted," said West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo.

Chief Russo says thecity attorney will review the findings and the plan is to appeal. For now, Lt. Coyle will have a desk job in the chief’s office until Russo can determine a permanent position.

Danielle Willard’s mother is also upset by the decision. Officers in the narcotics unit shot and killed Willard’s after an alleged drug buy in November 2012. District Attorney Sim Gill ruled the shooting unjustified. He has yet to decide if he’ll file charges against the officers involved.

While Lt. Coyle didn’t pull the trigger and wasn’t involved in the incident, “he was in charge of the team,” said Willard’s mother Melissa Kennedy. “That whole team was disbanded because they were all doing something they weren't supposed to.”

After hearing that the review board felt Lt. Coyle’s violations were “technical in nature” Kennedy responded, saying, “pulling a gun and not reporting it to me is not a minor procedure. I’m upset, I’m really upset (by the decision),” she said.

25 comments

    • Cartman

      She’s still working on how she’s going to bash Mormons at the same time.

      But in this case cop bashing is entirely appropriate.

  • Cartman

    So they said he did such a terrible job that they discarded his entire unit as being beyond repair, but now they’ve restored his rank?

    This has the stink of “union” about it……

  • Bob

    Let’s be totally honest here for a minute. The West Valley Police Department has never been on the ‘A’ Team since their inception when the city incorporated in 1980. Their ranks included officers who just weren’t cutting it in other locations, and their early years included a lot of civil rights violation lawsuits.

  • Trish Ramirez

    Aw man, I was slow on this one.

    This is ridiculous, and everybody knows it.

    This man is a poster child for everything that is wrong with the law enforcement community, and we’re paying his salary at a ‘desk job.’

    Not much else to say, other than I feel terrible for the Willard family and that this guy was running the cops that unjustifiably shot her and ended her life, and I hope that Sim GIll gets his stuff together and hands out some indictments here soon.

    • Politicly Incorrect.

      I hope the cops know your name and face, so when you really do need them, they won’t come. You wouldn’t want them using their “thug” powers to help you… Typical internet basher, you will bash them until you need them. Then you will cry for their help so fast…

    • Bob

      There are inherent risks a person assumes whey they are involved in the illegal pharmaceuticals business. Your fellow drug dealers will try to steal your stash if they get a chance, and they carry guns. The police will also try to take your stash, and they also have guns.

      Danielle Willard shouldn’t have tried to run from the cops, and Sim Gill can’t get a grand jury to indict.

    • Bob

      By the way, Trish, five (5) judges have all told Sim Gill no on a secret grand jury in this case. Trying to run over a police officer can have fatal consequences.

  • no five oh

    How bad does a cop have to mess up to be demoted or fired? This will make other cops think they can’t be touched when they do wrong.

  • Bob

    Trish: Let me brighten your day. Chief Russo wants to fire Lieutenant Coyle but has been blocked. Now he has to see his face every time he walks into the office. If he screws up Coyle will win a lawsuit against him.

    For those who don’t like the pollce in general or the West Valley Police Department in particular it is a win win.

  • Melissa Kennedy

    For those that grew up with cops and still have very good friends that are still police officers, detectives, Sherriffs and other parts of LE.
    X Lt. Coyle was the top of the NNU and it was taken away from him. I’m sure there was a reason for that. I know that when I was little stealing meant don’t take something that does not belong to you. I have heard that there are people in jail for that exact same thing. While WVC keeps their theifs close and lets them put the citizens in jail for the same thing they did.
    You sit there and bad-mouth someone that can not defend herself and you think you are better than anyone else. I bet you have no idea what really went on that day. I bet you have not read all of the real information that is out there. I also would bet that you have not seen the corners report. Danielle had her problems, as we all do, Including YOU. But she would NEVER say something bad about someone that is no longer here to speak for themselves.
    Yes, I am her mother and I WILL NOT stand for that type of behavior. I’m sure that you don’t have teens or adult children and if you do they are probably perfect. By perfect, I mean you turn your head to things your kids do and pretend you don’t know. Everyone of us at some time in our lives do something that we are not proud of, EVEN YOU.
    So next time I am in town if you really have something to say about my daughter have the guts to come up to my face and tell me what you think of Danielle. Someone that has never meet her and has never seen her, but you are willing to bash her name just so your brother in blue will feel better. Excuse me but I thought Police officers are supposed to protect and serve they are suppose to help those that need help, not kill them because they won’t roll down a window.
    I will say a prayer for you tonight, that you might open your eyes and truly see the truth that is going on around you.
    Think long and hard about what limits you would go if one of your children were killed and then the top cop of that Unit was given his job back or one of the cops was still getting paid 18 months later and the one that killed your daughter is asking for a hearing to clear his name. Look at the evidence read what you can about what went on that day and remember all we have to go by is the evidence and 2 cops that are lying out of their teeth, (according to the evidence).
    Please, if you can say that you have never done anything in your life that you would never tell anyone or that you are ashamed of come up to me and let’s talk. Otherwise, I suggest you keep your mouth shut about my daughter.

    • Bob

      There are interent risks associated with involvement in the illegal pharmaceutical drug business. Peace officers, just like everybody else, really want to return alive to their families at the end of their shifts, and when people pose a threat to that goal the results can be permanent.

      There is no mystery about what Miss Willard was doing that night. Right up until she tried to kill a police officer a little time in jail would have been appropriate.

  • Big Jared

    The Magic Uniform imparts its wearer with nearly full immunity from the consequences of his actions and special rights afforded no one else.

    • Bob

      The Magic Uniform you reference Big Jared didn’t seem to provide much protection for Officer Wride when a puke with the same attitude as yours decided to kill him.

      And yes, as sworn peace officers, they do have special rights you aren’t afforded. Duh!!

  • Melissa Kennedy

    WOW, I knew from the last 2 years that people in general in leadership in Utah were strange and they had no morals. They also have that GOD syndrome. But, now I know they are not only impressed with themselves when they kill unarmed citizens but they bash the Dead, the ones that can not defend themselves. That in itself is impressive (NOT). Those of you that call Danielle a drug addict and say that she deserved what she got are all pathetic. You say these things about people you kill to make yourselves look better. How much lower can a person get. You have no clue what happened that day, because you were not there. I can only go by the evidence and what Cowley and Salmon said. Danielle was not allowed her day in court, and yes a car can be used as a weapon, but the person in the driver seat has to be alive and in control. Danielle was neither and Cowley knew that. He had to see that she was not in control of the car as she passed him. Call it what you want, if it makes you feel better to say horrible things about Danielle, I feel sorry for you. People like you are the reason why the average citizen is too scared to come forward. Just because a person is not perfect they deserve to die. Danielle had her issues but she was trying her best to make the changes she needed to in order to get on the right track. Did any of you know that the Day before she was killed she called me. She was so happy, She got approved for her first apartment. She was incredible happy. I don’t know how she got to those apartments and I don’t know what she was doing there. I know all of you were saying she was there to buy drugs. Say what you want, believe what you want but I know her and I know she would have never hurt anyone. She would never call the police on anyone and she did several times within that last two weeks of her life. She was scared of something or someone. Enough said, It hurts when you say things about Danielle, mostly because she is my daughter but also because she can not take up for herself. Cowley and Salmon and the rest of the X_NNU are still alive and can speak up any time. They can take up for themselves. Danielle on the other hand can not tell us what happened that day. Cowley made sure of that. If Cowley wants to say something I will listen. If Salmon want to say something I will listen to him. But those of you that will not listen to evidence and the science behind this can continue blowing smoke. I’m tired, So very tired of listening to you saying things bad about my Daughter. Once again those of you that want to continue doing that, it says a lot about you.

    • Bob

      Multiple witnesses, as many as 39, corroborate the story told by the police officers who had every reason to fear for their lives. Fortunately for them they got to go home alive at the end of their shift, no thanks to Miss Willard. There is a reason why an indictment against these two officers by S.L. Co. Attorney Sim Gill hasn’t been forthcoming.

      Everybody involved in illegal pharmaceuticals knows that there are inherent risks associated with that business. All to often people get killed; Some by their fellow drug dealers, and others by the police after they threaten them.

  • Bob

    Unless it can be shown that deadly force wasn’t appropriate in response to behavior from Miss Danielle Willard it is irrational to try making Lt. Coyle a scapegoat. Interesting, that is why the Civil Service Commission reinstated him to the rank of lieutenant. That is also why Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has been unable to gain traction in his effort to indict the two officers involve.

  • Bob

    So let me see if I’ve got this straight? A real nice girl is parked in a car at the Lexington Park Apartments. A passing boy scout gets in her car, sells her a lolly pop, and then leaves. The she drives over to another car in the same parking lot. For absolutely no reason whatsoever two undercover police decide that since that don’t have anything better to do they will both start shooting at the innocent girl.
    Obviously the girl was with good company, and was only trying to leave because she was late for bible school. Makes perfect sence to me.

  • Bob

    MELISSA KENNEDY that people in leadership positions in Utah are strange and have no morals. Are we to assume that we should permit a free hand to drug dealers and drug addicts?

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