MORGANTOWN, W.Va. The leadership of Monongalia and Preston County Lodge #87 of the Fraternal Order of Police is providing more insight into their no-confidence vote for Morgantown police chief Eric Powell.

On WAJR’s “Talk of the Town,” Lodge #87 vice president Matt Starsick said a combination of lack of involvement by the administration and a lack of engagement by Chief Powell were causing an erosion of morale; he referred to the recent case review with the Morgantown Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board as the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“We’re waving a big red flag, saying, Hey, look over here; this needs attention,” Starsick said. “Unfortunately, because we are the Fraternal Order of Police, we are usually shoved back into the corner by administration.”

The case review focused on the arrest of a black female who was trespassing at University Avenue Sheetz, and the main question surrounding it was the number of officers who responded.

According to Starsick, the original call from the business was that three people were trespassing, not one. Three officers responded; however, two were in training with their field training officer with them by policy, increasing the visible police presence.

“Two of the individuals complied with the officer’s commands and the property owner’s commands and left the area,” Starsick said. “It was the one that remained that caused the scene, escalating the situation and painting the officers into a corner.”

Lodge members believe if the entire picture had been presented, the case review would have served one of the stated purposes of the board: to help the public understand why police do what they do.

“Officers do have to get assertive and take control of the situation,” Starsick said. “I know, that’s not pretty a lot of times, but that’s the world we live in. That’s the reality we live in.”

For the past two years, the Morgantown Police Department, with an authorized strength of 76 sworn officers, has been about 20 short, creating further challenges for officers on the street. Starsick, the city administration has done little to encourage recruitment, and recent policies limiting overtime have further complicated morale. Some of these frustrations do boil over into the public and during monthly neighborhood meetings.

“These officers basically told the citizens the truth as to what was going on within the department and within the administration of the city, and they were promptly removed from that neighborhood board meeting; they were told they no longer needed to go,” Starsick said.

He hopes the move will open lines of communication and lead to improved working conditions and relations with the public.

“If our hands are tied behind our backs or they want to put a gag in our mouth and have us not tell the truth, how are things supposed to improve? How are things supposed to get better, and how is the town supposed to get safer and more prosperous?” Starsick asked.

Efforts to contact Chief Eric Powell have been unsuccessful.