Who is driving the Upshur sheriff's cruiser?
Will the real Upshur County sheriff stand up? We are now eight weeks into what is supposedly a new sheriff's administration, and I am still having a hard time figuring who is actually the Upshur County sheriff. After reading last Monday's news, I am even more confused.
First, kudos to the citizen who had the courage to properly report to the Upshur County administrator that serious policy violations were occurring with county property, especially a violation exposing the county commission and every taxpayer to sizable liability.
Secondly, kudos to County Administrator Willie Parker for looking out for the county's best interest and the taxpayers by bringing this to the attention of the "new" sheriff, despite the sheriff's feathers getting ruffled in a public meeting.
Thirdly, jeers to the "new" sheriff for taking the "good ole boy" pose right out of the chute from day one.
What is he thinking? Is he afraid to forcibly grab the reins and bring non-compliant deputies into policy conformance? Who are the deputies offering up "some resistance?" Someone needs to remind these deputies, to include the numerous chief deputies currently on staff, that in the ranking order, they rank below the sheriff. Good deputies take orders and fully comply with policy, even if they do not personally agree; they are not the tail wagging the dog. We cannot afford to have another sheriff who is complacent and recklessly exposes hard-working Upshur County taxpayers to liability. We simply cannot afford it in today's economy.
I fully appreciate the complaining party's concerns regarding this matter and can fully understand how they would want to distance themselves from any possible law enforcement retribution, by not providing the "new" sheriff and the complained upon deputy their name and address.
Fourthly, jeers again to the "new" sheriff for the comment, "If that occurs, how do you expect me to enforce that policy without a proper investigation?"
An investigation of this type simply cannot be that complex to execute; as concerning a possible field of suspects, there are about eight to 10 deputies or so, so it is not as if he were looking for a needle in a statewide haystack of deputy sheriffs. Finding and correcting the misbehaving deputy should have been extraordinarily uncomplicated and speedy to resolve.
Fifthly, boo hiss to the "old" sheriff, as his public comments simply did not remotely make sense concerning this matter. A proper response, since he has assumed the newly and specially created position of chief deputy of administration via the political patronage route, would have been that this policy violation would be corrected and measures implemented immediately to ensure it does not occur again. Period! However, what transpired in dialogue was nothing more than boogieing around the issue and not dealing with the pink gorilla in the squad car.
Sixthly, I was bolted from the blue to see a former 36-and-a-half-year patrol officer and now current county commissioner to publicly, frankly and without stinting acknowledge his premeditated disobedience of county policy while serving as an Upshur deputy sheriff and wearing the uniform. What alarms me now with his declaration of guilt of being a long-term policy violator is; will this same naughty behavior continue as a county commissioner to the detriment of the taxpayer? This causes me apprehension as to what other policies or actions he may have intentionally dishonored while wearing the uniform that might expose the county to future liability.
Even more alarming with this revelation, is that the "old" sheriff and his command staff knew, or should have known, that such policy violations were consciously and with intent occurring by this former longtime officer, yet everyone turned the blind eye and nothing was done. Further, even more alarming is the "new" commissioner's utterance, "but I think where we can slow down the liability when at all possible, we should try to do just that." Wrong! As a county commissioner, you have a responsibility to stop immediately the county and taxpayer's exposure to liability from mischievous employees, period.
Seventh, jeers to the "new" sheriff, for requiring anyone who wants to complain on a deputy sheriff that the accuser must file a written, signed grievance and meet with face to face before any deputy is disciplined. From all appearances, this is business as usual; same as the last eight years. This must stop now!
With such a requirement in place, I doubt that very many, if any, will comply; thus, policy violations plus possibly criminal violations will go unreported.
Across the entire country, we have anonymous tip lines, anonymous whistleblower lines, anonymous drug tip lines, and the anonymous reporting lists goes on forever. What makes Upshur County deputies so special that they are completely exempt from discipline when someone calls in anonymously to report that a deputy may be violating a county policy, or a traffic law, or committing a crime and putting the county commission and the taxpayer in a position of liability? Will citizens have to resort to videotaping a deputy's wayward performance to prove transgressions have occurred before they are believed and a deputy disciplined?
It sounds as though the time is now matured for citizen's oversight of our sheriff's office. There are no other professions demanding more accountability than of today's law enforcement organizations, especially here in West Virginia. Why oversight? The emergence of citizen review panels of police accountability is a product of the police community's inability to maintain public trust as it relates to holding their own accountable for their actions and not serving the needs of the people within spheres of community expectations. Clearly, this is the case here in Upshur.
In closing, I urge the Upshur County Commission and all county citizens to seriously consider forming a citizen's oversight review committee. It is deeply needed and we deserve better.
David D. Taylor