State Police say violence up, police wrongdoing down

February 4, 2011 by Gary Harki

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous just sent out a press release titled “Continued Assaults on Officers” which says violence against officers is up and complaints against them are down.

It included the following quote:

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.”

I called Sgt. Baylous and asked him what the research was and where I could get a copy of it. He said that it was “qualitative” research and not “quantitative” – he said he interviewed Maj. Gordon Ingold, head of the Professional Standards section, which is how he came up with the statement.

He also pointed to the department’s Professional Standards Section report, which is released every year. The Gazette has repeatedly asked for more information than the report gives. It’s why we filed a lawsuit in November.

The press release (which is printed in its entirety at the bottom of this post) appears to tie the number of police officer deaths and assaults thus far this year to media accounts.

Here’s part of the quote by Col. Timothy Pack (pictured above):

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.

I asked Sgt. Baylous for an interview with Pack, who has denied all requests in the past. This is the answer Pack had relayed back to me through Baylous:

“When you apologize about the lies you have written about the State Police, then you will immediately have your interview.”

Baylous said Pack was specifically referring to a Dec. 27 story discussing Roger Wolfe, specifically the first sentence which reads:

There’s a lot Roger Wolfe doesn’t remember about the night in June 2007 when West Virginia State Troopers beat him so bad that cranial fluid leaked from his nose.

Baylous said Pack basically said that isn’t objective reporting. If you haven’t read the story, check it out and let us know what you think.

A couple of other notes about the press release:

  • It reports that there have been 17 line-of-duty deaths so far this year. Here’s where Sgt. Baylous is getting that number. It’s the Officers Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit that’s been keeping track of police officer deaths since 1996. It looks to be up to 18 since Baylous last checked.

The release mentions that the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted data, saying ambush killings have increased 57 percent since 1980. I’m sure that’s in there somewhere (the FBI releases a lot of data) but here’s the most recent FBI figures on the number of officers killed. I think they count them differently than the ODMP.

  • Four lawsuits are mentioned as being dismissed in the press release.

While the filing of these lawsuits received extensive attention from certain media outlets, their final disposition, indicating no wrongdoing on the part of the West Virginia State Police, received very little if any coverage, ” according to the release.

There’s one story in the Gazette archives about Angela Denise Bunting. I mentioned her in a story I did here. Other than that in the Gazette archives I can only find one story on the Wanda Carney lawsuit written by the Associated Press and nothing on the other two cases mentioned.

“Plaintiffs’ attorneys sometimes file weak or baseless suits in an attempt to receive a quick settlement or as leverage to counter criminal charges. … The Chicago Police Department is taking a new approach to combat the onslaught of baseless lawsuits,” the press release states.

I don’t know if that’s the State Police’s new tactic, too. Roger Wolfe’s case stretched out for more than a year and he received $200,001.

UPDATE: My friend and cubicle neighbor Andrew Clevenger mentioned that there was a hearing today on in the Derek Snavely case. Snavely is the former State Trooper, who is now chief in Hinton. A woman is suing him and the State Police, alleging she was sexually assaulted by Snavely in 2008 while he was in uniform.

Andrew, who attended the hearing, said Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jim Stucky thew out the civil rights charge against Snavely and the department, but allowed the remaining claims to proceed to trial.

In July I reported on how Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants didn’t know Snavely falsified his duty log when he made the decision not to prosecute the officer.

In response to a series of questions from the woman’s lawyer, Mike Clifford, State Police said Snavely clearly altered his duty log:

“It is apparent that he falsified that log from the time that he met with Plaintiff until the end of his shift. Upon information and belief, the actions represented prior to Defendant Snavely’s involvement with Plaintiff are accurate.”

Here’s the whole press release:

WEST VIRGINIA STATE POLICE
PRESS RELEASE
Continued Assault on Officers
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


8 Responses to “State Police say violence up, police wrongdoing down”

  1. Jimbo says:

    Gary, you may have inadvertently proven Pack’s point. You included the quote from Clifford: “It is apparent that he falsified that log from the time that he met with Plaintiff until the end of his shift. Upon information and belief, the actions represented prior to Defendant Snavely’s involvement with Plaintiff are accurate.”

    Right before that you said: “In July I reported on how Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants didn’t know Snavely falsified his duty log when he made the decision not to prosecute the officer.”

    Read your own words. You reported the log falsification accusation as FACT when even Clifford didn’t go that far. He used the words “apparent” and “upon information and belief”, but even HE didn’t say it was a fact.

    This might be the type of half-truth reporting that our police officers get upset about. Instead of patting yourself on the back and getting all defensive when criticized, maybe your should pay attention to the words of others more accurately and write things a little better.

  2. John says:

    Gary you are an idiot

  3. Ron says:

    THe State Police in WV are out of control. My son was arrested in Beckley by a state tropper for, according to the troppers written statement, blowing cigar smoke in the tropper’s face. My son had approached the tropper to seek his assistance with a dead battery in his vehicle. According to the tropper my son thyen blew cigar smoke in his face. Do you think a young man approaching a tropper for assustance would for no resaon provke a situation that would end up with his arrest? Me neither .The tropper didn’t like his appearence, or mannerisms, had a bad day or something. As a result my son spent the night in jail, had to poet a $3,000 bond and had in truck inpounded.

    To protect and serve? I don’t think so, not anymore.

  4. taxpayer says:

    Keep up the good work Gary!
    You’re obviously touching a nerve with these investigative stories.

  5. WEST VIRGINIAN says:

    For the State Police to investigate themselves is akin to a fox investigating who is eating the chickens.

    As an example is the following quote:’ I asked Sgt. Baylous for an interview with Pack, who has denied all requests in the past. This is the answer Pack had relayed back to me through Baylous':

    “When you apologize about the lies you have written about the State Police, then you will immediately have your interview.”

  6. Gary Harki says:

    Jimbo,
    I think what I really did with that update was poorly quote my own story.

    The State Police admitted the log was falsified themselves. And, Plants said he didn’t know it was falsified.

    This quote (from the same linked story) should make it more clear:

    “The 14-page Criminal Investigation Report, prepared by State Police 1st Lt. L.A. Bailes for Plants’ office, makes no mention of a duty log, let alone of its being falsified. The log also is not mentioned in the list of exhibits attached to the report.

    However, the State Police, in response to a series of questions from the woman’s lawyer, Mike Clifford, said Snavely clearly altered his duty log:

    ‘A copy of Defendant Snavely’s duty log has previously been disclosed [to Clifford]. Notwithstanding, it is apparent that he falsified that log from the time that he met with Plaintiff until the end of his shift. Upon information and belief, the actions represented prior to Defendant Snavely’s involvement with Plaintiff are accurate.'”

    So there’s two documents – the 14-page criminal investigation report that Plants saw and the State Police response to questions from Clifford. Both were prepared by the State Police. The criminal investigation report doesn’t mention the log falsification, the response to Clifford’s questions does.

  7. Truthy says:

    I’d also like to know why those troopers who beat Roger Wolfe aren’t in prison.

    Just think of how many people State Troopers beat who weren’t high powered, wealthy, connect lawyers who were in the position to hold those animals accountable. Think how many kids, blacks, poor people and fringe characters, who have no credibility, are abused because troopers know no on will listen to them.

  8. Mike says:

    It’s a dangerous place to live when the state police investigate complaints about the state police. Have you EVER heard of a local police agency arresting one of their own?? As they teach in the police academy, “justice” is “just-us”.

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