Morgantown deputy mayor talks origin and purpose of police oversight effort

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown leaders are offering more insight into the origins and purpose of the proposed Community Policing & Citizens Review Board. Deputy mayor Rachel Fetty came to WAJR’s Talk of the Town said recent events have inspired council to enhance transparency within the police department.

“We wanted to show our support for members of our community who might feel disenfranchised, or hurt or emotionally distressed by the truly painful things that are happening across our country,” Fetty said.

Interim police chief Eric Powell was supportive of the process early on, then backed away after the committee seemed reluctant to include a police officer on a committee that could consider investigations into allegations of misconduct and discipline.

Fetty says while there are no problems or allegations against police in Morgantown, they want to be prepared for any eventuality.

“I think part of our job as policy makers is to look into an unknown future and make the best policy you can based on the social forces you see gathering around you,”Fetty said.

FOP leadership and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have asked council to remain within Chapter 8 of West Virginia State Code while forming the committee. Chapter 8 provides employment protections to police officers because they are not allowed to unionize or strike.

In the event of a complaint involving police officers and their use of excessive force, power or unprofessionalism, the proposed committee would compile it’s own independent investigation. This would include holding hearings of those involved in said incident and an internal review of the incident at hand, the findings discovered and discussions of recommended discipline. These recommendations would then be submitted to the Mayor and Chief of Police to take further action.

“A resident can come and say- I’ve had this difficult experience and I would like the city to fix it,” Fetty said,”Or I would like this officer’s actions to be reviewed.”

Fetty says she has, for the most part, has positive interactions with law enforcement, but said that changed when her husband was in involved in an accident on Dorsey Avenue with the West Virginia State Patrol. The procedures that were not followed by the state patrol and Mon County Prosecutor’s Office resulted in an unpleasant experience and there was no method file a complaint, according to Fetty.

“We are looking to protect students, visitors, tourists or folks who could have any kind of brush with the law,” Fetty said.

The committee meets virtually every Monday (minus federal holidays) at 3 p.m.

“Nothing in the proposed ordinance is final and it’s not in a finalized form where it could go to council yet,” Fetty said,”We have many, many more conversations to have.”