The West Valley City Civil Service Commission has overturned the demotion of Lt. John Coyle, the former head of the now disbanded Neighborhood Narcotics Unit.
The West Valley City police department demoted Lt. Coyle in August of 2013 after the results of an investigation into the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit were released. That probe stemmed from an incident involving two other officers that shot and killed Danielle Willard in a West Valley City apartment complex parking lot. Coyle was not blamed for that incident, but was accused of doing a poor job supervising the unit. But the Civil Service Commission found that many of the accusations were not founded, and the ones that were didn’t rise to the level of the punishment he received. West Valley City Police Public Information Officer Roxeanne Vainuku says department officials strongly disagree with that opinion.
“Lt. Coyle was in the position of lieutenant, that’s a supervisory role, a very important role," she says. "So, violations of police policy are very significant at that level. And we feel that the decision that was made to demote him was absolutely appropriate and we stand by it.”
Coyle’s attorney, Erik Strindberg, says he’s pleased with how the commission came to its decision.
“It’s very easy for civil service commissions to just rubber stamp the department, whatever the department says goes," he says. "They didn’t do that here. They looked very carefully at all of the evidence and I think made a very reasoned decision.”
West Valley City attorneys are now evaluating the decision and determining if they will appeal. They have 30 days to make that decision. Strindberg says even if the city does decide to appeal, he feels confident in the merits of their case.
“The evidence simply did not support these accusations of gross misconduct that the department had been making,” Strindberg says.
Vainuku says Coyle will likely be assigned to the office of the chief doing administrative work until a more permanent placement can be found.