SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah prosecutor who recently dismissed nearly 20 drug cases due to a lack of evidence said Friday he expects more to be dropped as he reviews of hundreds of cases from the West Valley City Police Department, which is grappling with allegations of corruption and civil rights violations linked to its now-disbanded drug unit.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says the 19 dismissed cases were identified while investigating possible criminal wrongdoing by one officer in the unit.
Gill wouldn't provide details on the possible wrongdoing but said the scope could widen to include other officers.
His office is reviewing all of its open cases from the West Valley City police drug unit, most of which were filed in the past four years. Gill said he's reviewing the cases "out of an abundance of caution," but he expects more will be dropped.
"I think that there's some real concern for us that we're going to have a significant number of cases," Gill said Friday.
Neither Gill nor the West Valley City Police would name the officer involved in the dropped cases, but court records show Detective Shaun Cowley appears in 18 of the 19 cases - more than any other officer. Cowley also is one of two officers police have named as being involved in the shooting death of an unarmed woman last year.
Cowley's attorney didn't return calls or messages from The Associated Press, but the Utah Fraternal Order of Police has said it is confident Cowley will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, the FBI confirmed it has agreed to investigate allegations of corruption within the West Valley City drug unit and allegations of a cover-up surrounding the November fatal shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Misha Willard.
West Valley City acting police chief Anita Schwemmer said Wednesday that her department was working with the FBI but asked for a full investigation to restore trust in the agency among residents in the Salt Lake City suburb.
"This gives us the opportunity to have someone else outside of this department look at our department to see if any of those things occurred," Schwemmer said.
An attorney for Willard's family has accused the police department of withholding and destroying evidence, and alleges the agency has attempted to conceal details about the woman's death.
Schwemmer disputes that and says there has been no destruction or intent to destroy evidence and no cover-up regarding Willard's death.
The FBI is conducting two separate investigations into Willard's shooting and the drug unit, and the issues are not connected, Schwemmer said.
Gill's office also is reviewing Willard's death to determine whether the officers' use of force was justified.
That review is separate from Gill's probe of the drug unit, which was disbanded in December. Gill noted there are "certain overlaps in part of these issues" but declined to elaborate.
Gill said he didn't know how long it would be before the reviews are completed, but said it likely would be a while because he wants to be thorough.