Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New West Valley police chief orders audit of all cases from past year

By Pat Reavy, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Dec. 11 3:27 p.m. MST

 New West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo, speaks at a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 at City Hall in West Valley City.

New West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo, speaks at a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 at City Hall in West Valley City.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley Police Chief Lee Russo has ordered an audit of all of his department's cases over the past year.

But Russo said he's not doing it because he's looking for possible misconduct by his officers. He just wants to put administrative checks in place to ensure cases aren't collecting dust on someone's desk.

"It's an administrative check and balance that things don't get left forgotten. My intent here is basically putting the victim's face back in these cases so it's not just an empty case. It's about following something up for the benefit of that victim, that we give them the best look and the greatest help that we can," said Russo, who became chief of the department in August.

West Valley police handled more than 1,000 felony and misdemeanor cases over the past year. Russo estimated it would take his deputy chiefs about a month to review them all. He said he expected them to "set a baseline" of "here's what's here, here's what's open and what's being worked on."

Then, Russo said he wants to get an update on all active cases by the 5th of each month to see what, if any, progress was being made.

The idea, he said, came from a recent audit of the department's former sex crimes unit. Allegations were raised that cases were improperly handled during the previous administration. Members of the unit during the time of the alleged misconduct have either been transferred to a different division or no longer work for West Valley police.

"One of the questions I asked was, 'Well, if we're looking here, why aren't we looking in a broader sense of what cases do we have inside the building?'" Russo said.

"This is all of it. We're looking across the board. I've asked the questions, 'What's going on in the department? What kind of cases do we have? How are we dealing with them, being assigned, being followed up? Are we tracking to make sure cases aren't left to linger and are falling between the cracks?'"

Russo said he expected to be debriefed on the audit of the sex crimes unit on Thursday. After he has had time to review it, Russo expects to issue a public statement either Monday or Tuesday.

Without going into detail, Russo said based on informal updates from his deputy chiefs, he believes the problems with the sex crimes unit have been resolved since changes within the division were made. He noted there were a couple of cases that were getting an extra look just to make sure everything was handled correctly.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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