Police use Susan Powell disappearance as a learning tool

WEST VALLEY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) –The Federal Bureau of Investigation and several law enforcement agencies are coming together to compare experiences and improve each other’s skills.

It is a task police are faced with every day. Investigating violent crimes takes skill, persistence, and plenty of education. That is why Salt Lake Police, Unified Police, West Valley Police, and even the F.B.I. are holding their second annual Violent Crimes Conference.

One highlight of the 3-day gathering is West Valley Police Department’s presentation of the Susan Powell case.

"It was a very difficult case—had very unique circumstances and characteristics..." explained Phil Quinlan, Deputy Chief of West Valley Police Dept.

The young mother of two disappeared almost five years ago.

"This case is obviously unique in one respect, and that's the sheer time it took. It started in 2009. It was actively investigated for over 3 years," Quinlan said.

To this day, Powell is still missing. West Valley Police say Powell's case is open but not active because their main suspect is now dead. Powell's husband Josh killed the couple's two sons and himself in 2012.

"We can certainly now look back and say 'How might we have done things differently?' 'How might we approach this type of case in the future?' 'What would we learn from this?'" Quinlan explained.

And that is exactly what this week's conference is all about. Police and F.B.I. agents plan on discussing all kinds of violent crimes.

"It will include homicides, it will include sexual assaults, sexual investigations..." said Quinlan.

Police also plan to study Powell’s case and use it as a learning tool.

"You know, I think the one aspect that is important for any law enforcement agency faced with this type of case, is to ensure that there is a high level of coordination between all those involved—not just with detectives but all of those at interest and involved in the case, including the public, including elected officials…” Quinlan said.

Quinlan says West Valley Police presented their hindsight perspective to other agencies with just one hope...

"Maybe something will register with them from our experience, and then that will help if they are faced with such a case," he said.

The conference runs through Friday afternoon, and organizers say they already plan on holding it again, next year.

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