Morgantown Advances Police Review Board Plan With Diminished Scope
The Morgantown City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to move forward with a plan to create a Citizens Police Review and Advisory Board.
A vote on final approval of the board is expected in two weeks.
The nine-member board would serve as a go-between for the city residents and the Morgantown Police Department. They have the power to review and make recommendations on internal department policies and hiring practices.
Unlike earlier proposals, the board would not have the power to investigate civilian complaints of police misconduct. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and the Mon-Preston Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) had threatened to sue if the board had the power to investigate.
Under the current plan, the police chief will conduct any investigations of police misconduct, but the board will be able to review those investigation’s findings — and again — make recommendations.
On Wednesday, an attorney for the FOP told WAJR they were pleased that the investigative power was removed but still planned to sue over the board’s ability to make recommendations to the police chief after an investigation is completed and the board’s power to question witnesses.
Tuesday’s vote marks the culmination of almost a year's work from city officials and stakeholders that started last summer after the murder of George Floyd in May by a Minneapolis police officer and ensuing nationwide protests.
Bluefield has the only other police review board in the state. The board was formed following a consent decree from the Department of Justice. It has been dysfunctional and out of compliance for much of the last two decades until recent actions by city officials to get the board to function.