CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just before 8 a.m. on July 13, 2006, a Madison police officer - beer in hand - pounded on the door of Elsie Keffer's house.
Once inside, Keffer and the police officer exchanged words in front of her daughter over her boyfriend's alleged drug use.
"What made me mad was when he said, 'You will have her [performing oral sex] for crack before she's 15,' in front of my little girl," Keffer told police at the time.
As the officer left, he broke the latch on her door, according to an internal investigation by Madison Police.
The officer was Matthew Leavitt, who would go through four more police departments and be accused of wrongdoing many times before assaulting Twan and Lauren Reynolds in September 2008.
Last month Leavitt was sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating Twan and Lauren Reynolds' civil rights while working as a police officer in Montgomery.
But if Leavitt is the most egregious example of a local police officer being forced out of one department and then finding a job in another, he is by no means the only one.
A Sunday Gazette-Mail investigation shows that at least seven police officers now working in small towns in Kanawha or Fayette counties were fired or forced out of another department. And at least 44 municipal police officers in Kanawha or Fayette counties have worked at multiple departments since 2005.
At Leavitt's sentencing, Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin said it was appropriate that Leavitt is losing his badge, given his "substance abuse problem, his spotty employment history, and his violent behavior. ...
"Wearing the badge of a Montgomery police officer, defendant Leavitt terrorized this family. He abused our trust. He disgraced his uniform. And he made us all less safe," Goodwin said.
Leavitt is headed to prison, but other officers accused of misconduct are still working in law enforcement.
"It used to be you wouldn't hire a police officer with any kind of record," said Steve Neddo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 74.
"That's changed over the years," he said. "...You pay for what you get."
Inappropriate behavior in a police vehicle
From spotlighting deer to slamming into a woman's car, inappropriate behavior might get them fired from one department, but it doesn't mean they're finished as a police officer.
Federal prosecutors decided not to prosecute Shawn Hutchinson, as long as he stays out of trouble for one year, according to a deposition in the case.
Hutchinson lost his job as a Montgomery police officer, but he's been employed as an officer in Chesapeake since April.
Prosecutors agreed to drop a negligent-homicide charge against Tagayun when he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors - speeding and failure to use his cruiser's emergency lights. The city of Charleston settled a lawsuit by Sizemore's husband for $1.8 million.
But that didn't stop St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway from hiring Tagayun last year.
"I knew he had baggage," the mayor said. "I knew there was going to be controversy. But for me to make a choice other than picking the best candidate would be a flaw on my part."
At the time, the Whipkey brothers were the most active members of the Summersville Police Department in writing tickets, especially speeding tickets on U.S. 19. In 2002, Sean Whipkey wrote 3,908 tickets while Heath Whipkey wrote 3,229 tickets - nearly 40 percent of the 18,133 traffic tickets written by 20 police officers.
Both have worked as police officers in Gauley Bridge since March 12, 2003. The Gazette has received numerous complaints of excessive ticketing there.
Carpenter pleaded no contest to illegal possession of wildlife, shooting within 500 feet of a building, and hunting from an automobile. White pleaded no contest to illegal possession of animal parts.
Both were fired in September 2008 from the Charleston Police Department. They went through a lengthy and unsuccessful review and appeal process, Neddo said.
Within two months, both were working as police officers again. In October 2008, White got a job as a Marmet police officer He left that department in April.
Carpenter continues to work as an officer in Montgomery, where he was hired in November 2008.
Resignation rather than being fired
Small departments hire officers with checkered pasts for many reasons, Neddo said.
"Those are the most underpaid police officers in the state. And to be an officer in West Virginia, you have to graduate from a state-approved academy," Neddo said. "So a lot of cities' way around that is to hire officers that are already certified."
Once officers have their certification, they start looking for a higher-paying job in cities such as Charleston and South Charleston. Insurance and pension plans in bigger cities are also better, Neddo said.
Smaller towns don't follow the same civil service rules as larger cities. And often, they don't even follow the state laws governing municipalities, he said.
So if an officer gets in trouble, the mayor or chief often just asks the officer to resign rather than go through the lengthy and expensive firing process.
There are horror stories about how small towns around the state handle their police, Neddo said.
"They always try to get around requirements," he said. "They'll hire a guy and keep him for a year and then just get rid of him to avoid sending him to the police academy. ... They'll hire you and then not pay you for six months until you've been to the academy."
There are laws on the books to prevent small towns from hiring and treating officers as they do, he said.
"But there's no enforcement of it. Everybody tiptoes around it," Neddo said. "It would be good if one of these towns got whacked for doing something improper."
From job to job, year to year