Herald-Dispatch. March 22, 2023.
Editorial: Accountability could come to West Virginia State Police
The advent of inexpensive and easy-to-use video technology and the ease of dissemination of those images has brought something to law enforcement that its officers and executives are not used to: accountability.
From Rodney King to George Floyd to YouTube channels devoted to police’s lies, excessive use of force and other abuse of authority, those who enforce laws are learning that more eyes are watching them now. But it was an old-fashioned means of communication — an anonymous letter — that has brought down the head of the West Virginia State Police and accused people at the highest levels of that agency of wrongdoing.
Already Gov. Jim Justice has accepted the resignation of State Police Superintendent Jan Cahill, who had served in that post since Justice took office in 2017. Justice appointed Jack Chambers, the deputy director of the Capitol police, as interim superintendent and directed him to conduct “an all-out investigation” to replace one that began last month when the allegations surfaced.
The list of accusations is sickening because these are the people we trust to enforce our laws fairly and without favor. But Justice himself acknowledged Monday that at least some of these accusations could be true.
These are some of the accusations that Justice listed:
— That a State Police employee hid a video camera in the women’s locker room at a State Police facility in Kanawha County. When a thumb drive with the video was discovered, one trooper stomped it with his foot. “Now we’ve got law enforcement officers destroying evidence,” Justice said.
— That a man was playing a video machine with a trooper close by. As the man got up to go to the restroom, an envelope with him fell out of his seat. The trooper picked up the envelope and kept the money inside, which amounted to theft, Justice said.
— A man died along Interstate 81 under questionable circumstances. Justice wouldn’t give further details, but a quick internet search shows that on Feb. 14, a Maryland man was walking along I-81 when he was stopped by State Police. He struggled with more than one trooper, became unresponsive and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. According to the Associated Press, three troopers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation’s completion.
— In November 2018, a police dashcam video showed an officer kicking and punching a handcuffed teenage boy on the ground and kneeling on his shoulder during a traffic stop in the Eastern Panhandle.
Justice didn’t address other allegations, including financial mismanagement and sexual affairs involving high-ranking State Police officials that led to at least one physical altercation.
As this involves possible criminal activity, much of the investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the State Police will be out of sight of the public until it reaches court. This does not, however, absolve Justice of his responsibility to keep the public informed as much as possible without compromising the criminal investigations and prosecutions. Undoubtedly it is an uncomfortable situation for him and his friends, but maintaining the public’s trust in its law enforcement agencies is crucial. Sweeping this scandal under the rug will only damage that trust and perhaps even destroy it.
According to an old saying that long predates the Spider-Man comic books, with great power comes great responsibility. Technology allows us to add a corollary: With great power comes great accountability. Now is the time for accountability at the West Virginia State Police, including whatever criminal prosecutions may be necessary.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. March 16, 2023.
Editorial: Economy: Dependency should prompt change
Mountain State residents think of themselves as independent, “always free,” and as self-sufficient as we can be. Recent political trends would suggest we believe in small government, low taxes and dealing with as little interference from the folks in Washington, D.C., as possible.
Reality is quite different however, as WalletHub’s “2023’s Most and Least Federally Dependent States” puts West Virginia in second place — behind only Alaska.
Far from being dead last in this study, where we are accustomed to landing in so many comparisons of states, this time West Virginia residents are number one … in terms of being the most federally dependent in the country. Our state government’s dependency on the feds ranks 9th. On the other hand, the state ranks 49th for gross domestic product (per capita). Our old friend Mississippi is 50th. The Mountain State’s tax rates rank 17th.
“States receive federal aid for many reasons, from providing relief from natural disasters and health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic to funding improvements in education, transportation, infrastructure, healthcare and more,” WalletHub explained, in prefacing its report.
Here in West Virginia, however, the state has proved itself to be a “slow spender” when it comes to the kind of federal aid that is received as the result of a natural disaster. Still, our residents, communities and the state government itself rely on federal taxpayer dollars to get by — day to day and year after year.
It is yet another metric that demonstrates the paradox here in West Virginia; and one that SHOULD motivate lawmakers and economic development officials to be working their hardest to attract the kinds of employers that will provide jobs to free us from the chains we forged ourselves. Expansion and diversification of our economy could help break that dependency on the feds, but only if we make the changes that will attract and retain, rather than repel.
Voters got a clear picture this session of which lawmakers are willing to do that work, and which would much rather watch us whither into total dependence on federal taxpayer dollars than move the state forward. Voters won’t forget — backward-looking lawmakers can depend on that.
The Intelligencer. March 16, 2023.
Editorial: Regulating Child Marriage in W.Va.
West Virginia lawmakers are to be commended for overcoming the bizarre vote of the state Senate Judiciary Committee last week that rejected a child marriage ban. Though the 17-member Judiciary Committee may have believed they had stopped the measure, it was important enough to the rest of the Legislature that they found a way to revive it.
And so, on Saturday, the House of Delegates passed a measure that will ban marriages outright for anyone 15 or younger, require parental consent for those ages 16 or 17 who seek to marry, and require that even in those marriages the age gap must be no more than four years. The state Senate had easily endorsed the bill a day earlier.
Good for state Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, for resurrecting the bill and making sure it advanced, despite the committee’s attempt to kill it.
Though some opponents of the bill claimed child marriage is a way to “protect families,” the reality is such marriages are often forced upon one person — the girl. According to state health statistics, between 2015 and 2019, there were 259 girls under age 18 married in West Virginia… and just 52 boys.
“This is a huge step to protecting our youngest children,” said Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha.
She’s right. And given the talk about protecting children and families by so many in our Legislature this session, it is appalling the small group of those who voted against the bill in committee sought to stop it. Thank goodness the overwhelming majority in both bodies of the Legislature spotted the attempt and did the right thing, anyway.
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