"[Leavitt] threatened to 'blow my fat black ass away,'" Lakisha White told the Gazette-Mail. "He said, 'Bitch, I own you. I own the streets of Montgomery.'"
Three other people claimed problems with Leavitt in August 2008.
| Gregory Lee Payne alleged that Leavitt drove him to a wide spot in the road just before Interstate 64 near Cabin Creek. There, he choked and hit Payne, then left him by the side of the road, according to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha Circuit Court.
| Sherkiri Terell, then 17, said Leavitt pushed her head against a wall and slammed her cell phone to the ground. As the two struggled, she says, she put the phone down her pants. She alleges that when it began to ring, he put his hands down her pants to get the phone.
| Joey Carr told the Gazette-Mail he was stopped after knocking over a soda machine in Montgomery. The West Virginia University Tech student said Leavitt pepper-sprayed him at close range. Then, Carr said, Leavitt "grabs me and throws me down, kicks me in the stomach and Maces me again. . . . When he handcuffs me, he throws me against the car and told me to 'quit screaming like a little bitch.'"
Leavitt isn't the sole reason Montgomery officials decided to put a review board in place, said Higgins, who has served in Montgomery's city government -- including a stint as police chief -- for the past 40 years.
"I'm not going to say it didn't have some bearing, but this is something that probably would have come about anyway, eventually," the mayor said. "It's something that involves the public and it's a tremendous help to me. It doesn't leave me sitting there being the only one to make a decision."
The Montgomery board must consist of five members -- one city councilman, one representative each from WVU Tech and Bridgemont Community and Technical College and two other community members.
In addition to Hamm, a city councilman and pastor, the board includes John McGinnis, a teacher and former principal at Valley High School; Ruby Price, a retired nurse; and the human resources directors at WVU Tech and Bridgemont.
Parsons said he drafted the Montgomery law by looking at civilian review boards in other cities. The board will meet once a month. It will look at training issues and its members will ride along with the officers once a year, in addition to dealing with issues regarding the public, he said.
"I'd like to see Montgomery up front on this issue. It is so close to Charleston and it's a big town and holds an important position in the Kanawha Valley," he said. "It's time for us to take a leadership role in this issue."
Citizens will be able to make complaints directly to the commission, Higgins said.
"This gives citizens an opportunity to have other citizens look at a complaint -- instead of having a scenario where you have to file a complaint against a police officer to a police officer," he said. "Although it might be handled completely properly, there's just the feeling that, nothing might be done or you're making someone mad. This is a more comfortable situation for them."
Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, plans to watch the Montgomery board closely. The former Fayette County sheriff plans to introduce an expanded version of a bill he introduced last year that would require departments to report problems with officers to a central database.
Laird also wants to give a state panel the power to investigate potential problem officers, as well as ban them from working in the state.
He has been asked to swear in the new oversight commission at the City Council's 7:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday.
"To me, it constitutes a little field research in developing a sense of what local governments are doing in respect to police oversight," Laird said. "If there are good ideas that may be transferable, that's part of my preparation in advance of drafting any legislation."
Reach Gary Harki at gha...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.