The Upshur County Commission is looking to strengthen a policy which prohibits unauthorized passengers from riding in police cruisers.
The West Virginia Counties Risk Pool recently issued a memorandum which details the liabilities counties can face by allowing such riders in county-owned vehicles. The organization recommended banning unnecessary riders in police vehicles. Unofficial riders would include transporting family members to school or work, allowing persons not associated with law enforcement to ride in the vehicle and any person not acting in an official capacity.
The Counties Risk Pool statement indicated that injured riders could sue the vehicle's owner in the event of an accident, that riders face unnecessary risks should the officer respond to a crime scene or make a traffic stop and that officers are often the target of random acts of violence.
"The problem is that we know about it, and we're not doing anything about it," Commissioner Creed Pletcher said. "It's about time we put some teeth into that policy before somebody gets killed or we're in a lawsuit."
The Counties Risk Pool also recommended that in the event an unauthorized passenger is in the vehicle and an emergency arises, that the officer notify the dispatcher of being off-duty until the passenger is taken to a safe destination. At that point, the officer would return to duty.
"We should make it pretty straight-forward, so that it won't be an issue," Commissioner Donnie Tenney said. "If you don't adhere to the policy, we will park the cruisers."