CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The commandant of the State Police Academy has contacted the Troopers Association to say the association will no longer be allowed to speak to cadets at the academy, said Elaine Harris, head of the local Communication Workers of America, a sister organization of the Troopers Association.
The association had been talking to cadets in the evenings after their classes for years -- at least since 2001, when Harris became affiliated with them, she said.
A person who telephoned the Gazette and identified themselves as a state trooper on Wednesday called the move political and said the association had been meeting with cadets informally in the evenings for about 20 years.
In late March, the association endorsed state Treasurer John Perdue in the upcoming gubernatorial primary.
Maj. Mark DeBoard, academy commandant, called the association and told a receptionist that an April meeting between the association and cadets was canceled, said Harris, noting that there was some question as to whether a meeting was actually scheduled.
"He said he had decided that it wasn't a good idea for the association of any fraternal group to come to talk to cadets while they were in training," she said. "They didn't want the appearance that they were being strong-armed into joining the association."
Harris says the association was told it would be best if they spoke to cadets once they were at their detachments.
DeBoard is a former Troopers Association board member, Harris said.
"I don't know if he was really calling to say a meeting was canceled or really calling to say they would not schedule one in the future," Harris said.
When asked if she thought the State Police might be trying to weaken the Troopers Association, she said, "I don't know. It's certainly a good question, isn't it?"
"At this point, we've said all we want to say. We don't want to have further discussions about it in the media," said State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous. "We're willing to let this run its course through the proper forum."