From the West Virginia State Police:
Recently, after noticing national trends, the West Virginia State Police released information related to instances of assaults upon police officers in West Virginia. The number of committed assaults was staggering. Since January 1, 2011, nationally, there have been seventeen line of duty deaths. A majority of these deaths involved a suspect using a firearm. Already in West Virginia, since the start of the New Year, police officers in Huntington and St. Albans have been placed in situations where deadly force was encountered. In the St. Albans incident, a Charleston Police Officer was wounded while trying to serve a warrant.
The FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program recently published information which causes additional concern. Comparing data from 1980 and 2009, LEOKA concluded that there has been an approximate 57% increase in ambush killings of police officers. One of the most notable incidents occurred in Lakewood, Washington, in 2010, when four police officers were killed while completing paperwork in a local coffee shop. Even here in West Virginia, the threat remains a reality. In August of 2010, the Elizabeth Detachment of the West Virginia State Police came under attack by a gunman who had earlier kidnapped a UPS driver.
Not only are officers in West Virginia being assaulted physically, but also financially. In our litigious society, each time an officer has to physically take control and command of a situation involving a suspect, the possibility of a lawsuit being filed increases. Plaintiffs’ attorneys sometimes file weak or baseless suits in an attempt to receive a quick settlement or as leverage to counter criminal charges. A January 27, 2011, New York Times article entitled “Fighting Suits Saves Money for Chicago,” by Kari Lydersen, details how the Chicago Police Department is taking a new approach to combat the onslaught of baseless lawsuits.
During the past several months, four lawsuits against the West Virginia State Police have been dismissed. While the filing of these lawsuits received extensive attention from certain media outlets, their final disposition, indicating no wrong doing on the part of the West Virginia State Police, received very little if any coverage. They include the following:
- LaRue Causey v. Parkersburg Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, West Virginia Supreme Court, 06/02/10.
- Paul Dewayne Fields, et al., v. West Virginia State Police, United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, 09/27/10.
- Angela Denise Bunting v. Trooper Jones, et al., United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, 12/15/10.
- Betty Jarvis and Wanda Carney v. West Virginia State Police, West Virginia Supreme Court, 12/20/10.
Research conducted indicates that a majority of external allegations filed against employees of the West Virginia State Police in 2009 were determined to be either not sustained or unfounded. Furthermore, external complaints have continued to decrease in recent years.
“Police officers in West Virginia, as well as throughout the country, are under attack, both physically and financially. If we are to be successful in performing our duties and keeping peace in a civil society, then we urgently need the wholehearted support of the public. From time to time, allegations of police brutality on behalf of the West Virginia State Police have been over-sensationalized by a select few in the media. The deaths of fourteen officers and the recent shootings in both Huntington and St. Albans remind us that enforcing the law is a dangerous task. Occasionally, it requires brave men and women to make difficult, timely decisions in order to protect the lives of themselves and innocent victims.” – Colonel T. S. Pack
Contact: Sergeant Michael Baylous, 304-746-2198