CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) has released its 2020 Police Misconduct Report, which sheds light on a lack of transparency among law enforcement agencies in the state and calls for more accountability.
The report finds that agencies are not maintaining adequate public records related to use-of-force and misconduct, and that agencies do not even use standardized definitions for these terms. The report also calls for increased community engagement between law enforcement agencies and the communities that they police, as well as strengthening the public’s ability to file grievances through the creation of Civilian Review Boards.
ACLU-WV compiled the report through public records requests made to 275 law enforcement agencies in the state under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The overall response rate was just 54 percent. Just 21 of the state’s 55 county sheriff’s offices responded to requests, despite a requirement they do so under law.
“We're very proud to have put together one of the most comprehensive studies onpolice force, misconduct and discipline in West Virginia. However, it was a difficult undertaking because our data collection and tracking is not acceptable,” ACLU-WV Policy Director Eli Baumwell said. “One of the biggest takeaways from this report is how much improvement is needed in basic record keeping.
“Good policy is driven by good data, and we do not have good data,” he added. Based on the data that was provided, the report concludes that at least 1,000 people are subjected to police violence in West Virginia every year.
“We need to do better,” Baumwell said. “Our police do not do nearly enough to make people feel that complaints of misconduct will be treated seriously.”
The report is available here.