CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A bill designed to stop problem police officers from moving from department to department won approval from the Legislature on Saturday and was sent to the acting governor's desk to sign into law.
Under the new legislation (SB193), before an officer can get a job with a new department, the state agency would review his or her personnel file with that previous department. It's up to the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee -- formerly known as the Law Enforcement Training Subcommittee -- to find out why an officer left a department and then decide whether to decertify the officer in West Virginia.
It also gives the subcommittee subpoena powers to investigate incidents and requires they keep a database of all certified officers, which is available to all departments.
The bill would keep police agencies from hiring officers who have abused their authority or caused problems at other departments, said John Smith, president of the West Virginia Troopers Association.
"We felt that there's areas around the state where that's been a problem," Smith said Thursday.
In December, a Sunday Gazette-Mail investigation revealed that an examination of 14 years' worth of state data showed at least 166 officers have held jobs with four or more departments in West Virginia.
There are 14 departments that have each hired at least 10 of the 166 officers who moved around the most.
Smithers, Montgomery, Shinnston, Mount Hope and Cedar Grove combined have hired those officers at least 80 times.
In the past two years, the Gazette-Mail has shown that at least 13 West Virginia officers who have left one department under a cloud of allegations have found work at another department. Several of those officers moved through the 14 departments.
All police would have to have their certification reauthorized before they could get rehired at a new department.
"We feel this piece of legislation would curtail some agencies that are not vetting or conducting proper background investigations before they hire," Smith said. "It'll keep certain officers from hiding under the radar."