CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Following the unveiling of who wrote the five-page anonymous letter alleging wrongdoing within the West Virginia State Police, 13 News spoke with the whistleblower about why he wrote it and what he hopes for the future of the organization.
Cpl. Joseph Comer, a member of the West Virginia State Police, said it all comes down to doing what was right, and he couldn’t stand by watching the misconduct within the department.
“At times there was certain aspects that were shameful, and it was because of a select few,” Comer said. “I wasn’t willing to sit back and watch everything I worked for and that I believed in be diminished by selfish decisions or decisions out of greed or arrogance.”
Even before Comer wrote the letter to Gov. Jim Justice and other officials, he said he tried to address concerns with his superiors. However, instead of seeing improvements, he said the misconduct got worse.
“Everybody at the time, they were at the end of the road, at the end of this administration, they were retiring and they were leaving. For those that we’re left, we were being left with a mountain of issues,” Comer said. “And to have watched how bad it got, just in the short interim, it was kind of like, ‘how bad is this going to be in two more years?’”
13 News Reporter Rachel Pellegrino asked Gov. Jim Justice during his weekly briefing, how concerned he was that Comer had to write an anonymous letter because his initial concerns weren’t addressed.
“The biggest part of the problem is when someone brought issues or problems to someone who is a superior and nothing was done and or it was covered up that becomes a bigger problem than maybe the acts themselves,” Gov. Justice said. “If it’s true that he went to supervisors and reported things and nothing was done or it was covered up that’s bad stuff. That’s really really bad stuff, and I expect Jack Chambers to get to the bottom of that.”
The most serious allegations include sexual assaults, thefts, and damage to state-owned property at the state police academy. Other accusations include a hidden camera in the women’s locker room, misuse of taxpayer funds and some troopers billing for overtime they did not work.
Originally, Comer did not sign the letter in fear of retaliation from the State Police; however, months later, he said he just wants the integrity of the State Police to be restored.
“I absolutely understand that there could be or would be retaliation, but I just wasn’t going to live in that fear,” he said. “I prayed then and I pray now that someone sitting somewhere is looking at this and sees the problem and is going to do the right thing and I believe that will be Col. Chambers.”
As the investigation continues into the State Police, Comer said he hopes to see more individuals on administrative leave, considering the weight of the allegations.
Comer also said he doesn’t regret writing the letter. If he had to do it again, he would.
Comer, who is accused of domestic violence appeared in Ritchie County Court on Monday, March 13, for a preliminary hearing. The magistrate judge decided there was probable cause in a felony strangulation charge against the trooper to send the case to a grand jury.
Comer is accused of domestic battery and felony strangulation in connection to two child custody exchanges in a hotel parking lot in Ritchie County, West Virginia, on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, 2022. The alleged victim testified during today’s hearing on behalf of the state.
In late February, Comer turned himself in after a criminal complaint was filed against him. The charges were not filed until Feb. 23, the day before Comer was set to have a grievance hearing about concerns regarding the West Virginia State Police.