CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state senator wants to pass legislation that he hopes will mean fewer problem police officers patrolling the streets of West Virginia.
Sen. Bill Laird, a former Fayette County sheriff, said he plans to introduce an expanded version of a bill he introduced last year that would require police departments to report problems with officers to a central database.
The legislature's joint judiciary subcommittee discussed the issue at an interim meeting Monday.
Laird, a Democrat, said he wants to give the Law Enforcement Training Subcommittee of the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Corrections the ability to investigate potential problem officers as well as decertify them.
"Just a few people can reflect poorly on the profession," Laird said.
State Police 1st. Sgt. Curtis Tilley, who heads the subcommittee, told legislators that officers in West Virginia are only decertified if they have been convicted of a jailable offense.
Courts have deemed decertification similar to taking away property rights, Tilley said.
"We've been told as a committee that we need to have proof that the action was committed," he said. "The problem we have as a committee is in obtaining that proof.
"There's nothing that requires that actions be reported," he said. "We only find out if it's public record or through the news media."
But Laird noted when lawmakers made rules for the committee, they said an officer's certification could be revoked for "conduct or a pattern of conduct unbecoming to an officer or activities that would tend to disrupt, diminish, or otherwise jeopardize public trust and fidelity in law enforcement."
"That does not seem to be a bright line. That seems to be pretty pliable," Laird said. "It seems from the language of the legislative rule that you've got the authority, but it seems you might be reluctant to pull the trigger."
Tilley said that the committee doesn't have the staff or ability currently to investigate officers and find out whether they should be decertified. It's up to individual departments to make the subcommittee aware of a situation, he said.
The committee has decertified at least six police officers in 2010. Just seven officers were decertified between July 2005 and the end of 2009.