Police oversight effort in Morgantown inches forward

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown leaders are working through concerns as an additional police oversight committee is created.

Recently, interim police chief Eric Powell told members of the media he was hopeful the committee would provide an opportunity for civilians to better understand police operations. However, when the committee began to consider investigations into allegations of misconduct and discipline would be handled he had second thoughts.

Members of the law enforcement community insist the committee should have someone with law enforcement experience. FOP leadership and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey believe the committee could violate Chapter 8 of West Virginia State Code. The code provides employment protections to police officers because they are not allowed to unionize.

Additional concerns have been raised about how this committee would function with the existing Police Civil Service Commission.

Morgantown mayor Ron Dulaney extended an official inviation to state FOP president Steve Walker during the last meeting.

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 on.

Chair of the Community Policing & Citizens review committee, councilor Zack Cruze expressed frustration and insisted the Monday meetings at 3 p.m. are, and always have been open to the public.

“At this point, our administration is fracturing into two separate divisions,”committee chair and councilor Zack Cruze said,”And that’s frankly not an acceptable way to go about a sub-committee to me.”

Deputy mayor and committee co-chair Rachel Fetty wants more participation from the public, including from police officers.

“This is the best forum for us to accomplish this goal, so I would like us to continue,” Fetty said,”Honestly, I would encourage those who want to contribute anonymously to contribute anonymously.”

Self-proclaimed activist, Amy Bolyard told committee members Monday police officers should be represented and council members should focus on fairness for all.

“I very concerned about protecting our police officers, I’m concerned about protecting people too,” Bolyard said,”I love my faith, I love my people- we have one race, the human race.”

The Community Policing & Citizens Review Committee meets every Monday at 3 p.m.