Letter of Transmittal
West Virginia Advisory Committee to
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Members of the Commission
Mary Frances Berry, Chairperson
Cruz Reynoso, Vice Chairperson
Jennifer C. Braceras
Christopher Edley Jr.
Peter N. Kirsanow
Elsie M. Meeks
Russell G. Redenbaugh
Les Jin, Staff Director
Over the past 10 years, the West Virginia Advisory Committee produced three reports on civil rights issues in its state, each having significant portions devoted to overall police-community relations. The Committee conveyed the concerns of community advocates, former police chiefs, and citizens that various forms of police misconduct, including unnecessary force, have occurred in many areas of the state, and may regrettably continue. A concern frequently raised is whether existing police disciplinary procedures used by state and local law enforcement agencies can effectively address the problem. Persons who believe more could be done call for the creation of an independent police review board at the state and local levels that could monitor instances of brutality and misconduct and report to the public that appropriate corrective action was taken against offending officers.
In June 2003, one month after the Committee released its most recent report, Civil Rights Issues in West Virginia, the West Virginia legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Minority Issues held a hearing. The report served as a basis for a discussion of police-community relations, and the Committee’s knowledge of the topic and ongoing information collection were noted. Following the hearing, the Committee was invited to share its insights on whether review boards (or a similar entity) were feasible for West Virginia. It subsequently prepared a draft background paper describing current methods of police officer discipline and information it discovered in the course of its research. In a vote of 12 to 1, no abstentions, the Committee elected to issue a more detailed report to make the information available to police officers, public officials, and the general public.
The West Virginia Advisory Committee submits this report, Coping with Police Misconduct in West Virginia: Citizen Involvement in Officer Disciplinary Procedures—A Review of Existing Law, Legislative Initiatives, and Disciplinary Models. This report is based on the background paper. It summarizes the Committee’s research collected to date and covers three major themes: (1) the ongoing problem of police brutality and existing disciplinary structure; (2) past legislative attempts to reform disciplinary procedures and the experience of two recent review boards established in Bluefield and Charleston; and (3) alternative models and methods used successfully in other parts of the country.
The Committee hopes this report will serve as a useful public information piece and a starting point for further discussion.
Ranjit K. Majumder, Chairperson
West Virginia Advisory Committee