CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In West Virginia, allegations of police misconduct, such as the alleged beating of Charleston lawyer Roger Wolfe, are investigated by police themselves.
However, there has been an effort by some, including at least one state lawmaker, to change that.
The creation of a citizen review board to look at complaints of police wrongdoing would help curb abuse, said Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson.
"I think where this is in place, police managers end up doing a better job disciplining their own people," he said. "Just knowing that they have a review board to answer to usually does the trick."
Doyle said he has introduced bills in the Legislature to create a review board for at least the past six years, only to see them go nowhere.
Doyle's proposal called for the board to have at least five members with membership spread out all over the state. They would meet quarterly and would be paid, like many other state quasi-voluntary boards, $150 per meeting, Doyle said.
Many states and most large cities have some type of police review board, he said.
"We are not talking about something anyone would to do make a living," Doyle said. "You might want to require a percentage of the board have law enforcement experience but you would also want some who haven't to get the true citizen's perspective."
The state Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has advocated for a police review board since the early 1990s, said lawyer and Fairmont State University professor Gregory Hinton. Hinton, a former mayor of Fairmont, served more than 20 years on the commission, including two terms at its chairman.
"My feeling is that there is abusive behavior in every profession, whether it is newspaper reporting, police, lawyers, what have you," he said. "The problem I see is a code of silence."
A 2004 report issued by the advisory committee documents instances of abuse by police going back to 1997 and recommends the creation of a review board.
"I think with a citizen review board you don't have to worry about a code of silence," Hinton said. "You have people look at it and give it as much objectivity as possible. ... Frankly a citizen review board might deter this kind of conduct in the first place."
Doyle said he is in favor of citizens' review boards for all police in the state but that a good start would be a setting up a board for the West Virginia State Police.