A God-created soul which will be true to its origin. Thomas Caryle
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer. Ralph Waldo Emerson
By Bob Weaver
re-published from September, 2001
In my childhood days of the 1950's, I would slump into my seat in the
darkened Kanawha Theater on Main Street in Grantsville watching the
Saturday western heroes fill the screen. The likes of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry
and the Durango Kid.
Some weasly no-good hombre would threaten the town or try to take
something that didn't belong to them. The white hats would chase the black
hats up and down the rocky hills and across the sagebrush plains.
Sometimes the good guys would almost fail, be tempted to do bad or almost
lose their courage.
But you could always count on them to come through before the house lights
came up - one more time - truth, justice and the American way. They became
my heroes, those cowboy guys and the shiny badges in those western towns.
Rescuers who took risks, stood up and did the right thing.
The closest I came to becoming one of those guys was being a volunteer
firemen for eighteen years, sometimes as a Rescue Chief, and providing
emergency medical service in the dark ages, in my mind, not so long ago.
Years later, my throat turns dry and I choke to speak about the
policemen and fireman who gave their all in New York City on September 11,
I understand the mental decision and mind set of responding to the
call. An English proverb said One who is afraid to run away, a calling
on a higher nature of the soul.
It has been with anguish my small-time writer skills have reported on my
policemen heroes, in this case a few members of the West Virginia State
Before me is a troubling list of questionable incidents. I want my
policemen to be strong, brave, honest and true.
Most of them are good men and women doing good, but some of them, for
reasons I do not understand, have gone down a slippery road violating the
trust we have placed upon them.
As Editor of The Herald, I certainly have experienced a "wall of silence," a violation of common First Amendment rights,
and the intimidating behavior of
some of the officers.
There seems to be an endless list of incidents, failures and unprofessional behavior.
The problem must be deeper than the incidents.
An agency unable to control its
own, sometimes going through the motions of accountability, but otherwise
oblivious to the the internal culture of the organization and the problems it
An agency that blames others for its' own problems.
Some have suggested the problems stem from quasi-military training which
creates a us vs. them mentality; the failure of green on green
investigations dealing with misconduct; the constant filing of lawsuits within
the organization over personnel issues or possibly politicians pandering to
the police lobby.
Others believe it is the lack of basic supervision (where each officer
often appears to act as an independent agent); the keeping of "bad boy" files
against one another; policemen with personality problems, mental health problems or
alcoholism that go untreated; the lack of educational requirements beyond a
GED and Police Academy; the cost of training a trooper, the organization
fearful of losing an officer.
In Calhoun County the bad behavior and the poor performance has become part of our cultural lexicon.
More recently the cases have become better documented, involving the
throwing of a MagLite though an innocent person's window; the banging of a
kid's head into a car trunk after he passed on a yellow line, the apparent
lying on a witness stand to make a case; or the beating-up of "bad guys."
Police psychologists suggest many officers suffer from "burn out" and begin
to exhibit out of control behavior.
Others have suggested out of control egos that convince officers they are
not accountable to the public they serve. Col. Howard Hill, head of the
agency, has adequately defined the problem, saying "I would like to pick up a paper and not see where an officer is in trouble." Whether he has the grit and
support to head in a new direction, remains to be seen.
Sometimes it has been law enforcement by intimidation, rather than respect.
Granted, much has changed since the days of long-time trooper Lloyd
Haynes, whose omni-presence commanded respect. One time he told me "I
usually don't have to investigate the crime. People will come to my door,
knock, and tell me what happened." Haynes had trust and respect.
In a time when most of us desire to revere our officers, I am hopeful when
the "lights come up" the agency and the policemen we desperately
want to respect will once again be heroes, mine and yours.