CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia State Police have released a progress report related to investigations into their department.
According to the WVSP, the progress report is in accordance with newly-named Superintendent Colonel Jack Chambers’ wish to be transparent with the public throughout the investigations.
The WVSP says federal and internal authorities are investigating in the matter of the hidden camera in the women’s locker room at the WVSP academy along with the destruction of a storage device that allegedly contained footage of that camera.
On Wednesday, July 19, 2023, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that federal authorities were now investigating the alleged hidden camera. According to lawsuits against the WVSP, a former supervisor is accused of placing the camera inside the women’s locker room to film multiple women.
Wheeling-based attorney Teresa Toriseva said earlier this month a legal team of attorneys representing female law enforcement officers suing the WVSP plan to file hundreds of lawsuits for alleged misconduct.
The progress report states Chambers has issued a letter of apology to “any female victimized by the hidden camera in the WVSP Academy locker room.” According to the report, the WVSP is also working with the Department of Homeland Security and Marshall University are working together to implement the university’s Health Line to provide aid to any of the women who believe they may have been victims of the hidden camera incident.
As for the allegations of domestic issues against Joseph Comer, the mother of his child asked for the domestic violence protection order to be dropped on Monday, July 10. According to a court filing obtained by 13 News, the woman testified that she is, “not in fear for her safety. Additionally, she desires to have [Comer] resume his parenting time with the parties’ child.”
Comer is still charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and felony strangulation against the same woman in Ritchie County. He has pleaded not guilty to all wrongdoing. Comer and his attorney, David Moye, have maintained the charges were allegedly “payback” because Comer claims to be the whistleblower who sent Gov. Justice and lawmakers a five-page anonymous letter alleging misconduct in the top ranks of the WVSP, detailing allegations of sexual assaults, thefts and the hidden camera at the academy.
The WVSP says federal investigators are also still looking into the allegations of sexual assault two women in Logan County brought against a trooper. The women have also filed civil actions related to those allegations. The lawsuits allege the incidents happened in July 2021 and December 2021.
Federal investigators are also looking into the death of a man hit by a trooper’s Taser during a struggle along I-81 near Martinsburg in February. According to the WVSP, the man who died, Edmond Exline, had been walking along the interstate when the struggle happened. A WVSP captain claims Exline had allegedly ran into traffic and was not listening to the trooper’s commands.
As other allegations against the WVSP came to light the following month, it was announced Exline’s death would become part of the overall investigation into the WVSP.
West Virginia State Police say along with the statuses of those investigations, they have taken steps to improve oversite within their ranks. The progress report claims some supervisory personnel who had been able to approve their own time and leave will now be required to report all daily activity reports, hours, etc. to the next-line supervisor. The report says Chambers is also currently working with FBI to provide training on civil rights and the responsibility to act under “color of law.” The WVSP says several of the troopers have already undergone the training.
According to the WVSP, four troopers recently “separated from employment due to the recognition of failing to meet the standards and expectations of the WVSP.”
As for improvements to the WVSP Training Academy, troopers say Chambers directed the current camera system be upgraded with 60 new cameras around the compound, entrances and other common areas for enhanced security. Additions to security at the facility will also include an access control system at all entries to the academy.
The report from the WVSP says there have also been some “staffing changes” at the academy and the curriculum has been adjusted to improve the educational environment for knowledge retention. They say they area also limiting the “stress inoculation period” for the first few weeks to help transition into more academic and experiential training at the academy.
Upgrades have also been made to the women’s barracks at the academy, along with the addition of an in-house female staff member at the barracks. Chambers has also directed that the deputy superintendent will meet with the women training at the academy at the start and end of all classes to inform them that they may contact people outside of the academy if there is any issue with academy staff.
Finally, the WVSP and WVSU have entered a memorandum of understanding to award 30 college credit hours to basic class members upon graduation and 90 credit hours to cadets upon graduation. This comes after the Department of Homeland Security directed the WVSP to collect and review all currently effective memorandums of understanding that the WVSP enters into with other agencies.
Chambers also requested the DHS’s Division of Administrative Services provide assistance and guidance regarding grants, human resources, payroll, accounting and purchases.