Morgantown leaders encourage public participation with Community Policing & Citizens Review Committee formation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Members of Morgantown city council received an update on the ordinance to establish a Community policing & Citizens Review Board. Committee chair, Zack Cruze expressed concern over the questions raised by the members of the Monongalia-Preston Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 87.

“It’s alarming to me that there is push back on a citizens review board without any finalization or participation in the development of what that review board would do,”Cruze said.

The proposed committee would, in the event of a complaint involving police officers and their use of excessive force, power or unprofessionalism, this 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 on.

According to the president of FOP Lodge 87 Scott Carl, Morgantown Police officers are not members of a union, nor do they have the ability to collectively bargain or strike. Because of this, Chapter 8 in West Virginia State Code provides regulations for how civil service employees are not to be treated.

Deputy mayor, Rachel Fetty told council members there is a wide cross section of the Morgantown community.

“We are very, very lucky and privileged to be working on a civil review board with a wide variety of folks who represent virtually are of our community,” Fetty said.

Additionally, the city of Morgantown currently has a three member Police Civil Service Commission, one member each nominated by the Chamber of Commerce, the city of Morgantown and the FOP. Information on the city website says the current commission develops and administers tests for police service in the city, promotions, appointments and conduct hearings when charges are brought against and officer or there is possible reduction in rank.

Jerry Summers is the chairman of the commission nominated by the chamber, Charles Chico is the city nominee and Keven Clark was nominated to the commission by the FOP.

“This board they want to form wants to have power over hiring, firing, discipline and investigation of police officers,”Carl said,”That’s our problem with it, there’s already a civil service commission.”

Carl contends the city committee was formed with little input from Morgantown Police officers and no input from members of FOP Lodge 87.

“We don’t have a problem with them overseeing, looking at our training and asking questions,”Carl said,”Why do they want to form this board when number one, one already exists and number two, the resolution they wrote up violates Chapter 8.”

Chapter 8 of West Virginia State Code provides the rules for employment agreements bit cities and municipal workers. The code goes into detail about pay, holiday work, conduct, qualifications and dispute/incident resolution.

“There is already something in place and they are ignoring that to put something else in place,”Carl said,”Under state law they cannot supersede this or ignore it, they have to work within it unless they get the state law changed.”

Lodge members have requested a meeting with all concerned to discuss ways work together moving forward.

“We are not responding to any kind of malfeasance or wrong doing or contention there is,”Fetty said,”We are simply doing this as a way to protect our citizens, protect our state, protect our municipality and protect our community.”

The Community Policing & Citizens Review Committee meets on Mondays at 3 p.m.

“If people have concerns about what the citizens review board is or want to participate in the formation of the language for that ordinance it’s a public committee and everyone is free to come speak,”Cruze said.