MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Members of the City of Morgantown Citizens Police Review and Advisory Board have voiced their support of their recent case review with Police Chief Eric Powell.

Less than a week after the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 87 of Monongalia and Preston Counties issued a vote of ‘no confidence’ toward Powell over the handling of the review with the board, representatives of the civilian board expressed appreciation for Powell’s involvement and the conversations on the policies and social climate of the Morgantown Police Department. While no members of the board openly voiced support or opposition to the ‘no confidence’ vote itself, there were concerns about how the decision could influence communications with members of the department.

“I don’t want to overlook the elephant in the room, which is that the FOP came out afterwards with a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Chief Powell, and they contributed it to that meeting,” said Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board Vice Chair Rachel Fetty. “I did want to note that when we invite the chief or if we invite other officers, it is not a formal situation,” she said.

In the press release sent by the FOP Lodge 87, the ‘no confidence’ vote in Chief Powell stemmed from a combination of a lack of local efforts and comments made to the board related to police officer culture and policy. During the case study review in February, Powell and the board discussed a situation where five officers responded to a trespassing call involving an unarmed woman. According to FOP Lodge 87, Powell did not bring up the situation where the call for service was for three people on private property, two of the officers on the scene were newly minted and in the process of training, and two left the scene after the two other people left without incident. There was also mention of what Powell called a “bullying mentality” within the department and that the FOP Lodge 87 was a result of Powell’s leadership. While there was no comment from the board regarding Powell’s role in the department regarding culture, they did feel they learned a lot from the case study.

“I think there’s some things that he brought up that he’d like to see improved that I think we can have a hand in,” said Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board Chair Richard Burks.

For members of the Morgantown Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board, the ‘no confidence’ vote presents an unfortunate situation where opportunities to speak with Morgantown police officers regarding policy or case studies could be severely hampered. For Fetty, a former member of Morgantown City Council who was also a major advocate for the board’s foundation, emphasized to members of the Morgantown Police Department who may have been watching the virtual meeting that there isn’t an effort to set officers up in a no-win situation. According to the deputy chair of the board, the case studies are aimed at creating a better understanding of police policies, not potentially placing officers in a position to lose their jobs.

“I think that maybe might have been something that was lost in translation, this is not us calling the chief of police or other officers to be accountable to us,” said Fetty. “We are trying to build that relationship,” she said.

Each of the members who were present for the meeting Thursday expressed a desire to have similar case studies and policy reviews with officers in the future. It was also mentioned that they aim to merely seek to gain more information on police policies so they can be explained to the public in the event of a complaint. With no formal case studies scheduled in the near future, the Morgantown Citizens Police Review and Advisory Board hope to continue to try and build a rapport between themselves and the Morgantown Police Department.

“We’re trying to look into issues and concerns that are within the community, with the participation and cooperation of the police department,” said Fetty. “So I appreciated Chief Powell’s participation, I thought it was very helpful,” she said.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 87 President Brandon Viola was in attendance virtually at the Thursday meeting, he did not respond to comments made by the board related to Chief Powell.