The Charleston Gazette|
Friday May 10, 2002
WEST Virginia taxpayers have been forced to pay $18.3 million in the past 15 years to
alleging brutality and other misconduct by state troopers.
Last week, Bryant Jones of McDowell County collected $187,500. He contended that
Iaeger town police
charged him in 1999 with driving on a suspended license, handcuffed him to a chair,
and watched as five
State Police troopers beat him. Later, troopers beat him on two other occasions, his
The fact that the state's insurance agency coughed up $187,500 of taxpayer money
is strong evidence
that the man's accusations weren't groundless.
Meanwhile, the Beckley Register-Herald used the Freedom of Information Act to
obtain State Police
settlements during the past five years. Some outcomes:
Neal Rose of Welch got $1 million because former Trooper Gary Messenger and other
into his apartment and beat him after he complained about their drunken, noisy party
The family of Amanda Smailes collected $775,000 because she was killed when
Plummer took part in a wild chase that was being filmed for a TV show.
James Minghini Jr. of Berkeley County got $60,000 for his allegations that troopers
beat him - and the
state spent $454,519 on legal defenses in the case.
An unidentified Raleigh County woman collected $75,000 on her claim that former
Trooper John Henry
Zirkle and two other men had gang sex with her in a park while she was
The family of Melanie Winfree got $1 million because her boyfriend, Trooper Rodney
her to death, then killed himself.
Sandra Basham, a secretary at the Hinton detachment, got $95,000 for her claim that
Rusty Blankenship made sexual advances toward her.
McCoy Hatcher of Logan County collected $40,000 on his claim that he was battered
by Trooper C.J.
James Richardson of Kanawha County got $1 million because he was imprisoned
testimony by former State Police lab chief Fred Zain.
Altogether, the force has incurred $18.3 million in lawsuit costs since 1987 - including
$4.5 million paid
to victims of Zain's untrue evidence.
The message here is abundantly clear: State officials should be extremely watchful
over those the state
arms with deadly weapons and authorizes to kill people, if necessary. The job should
be reserved for
only the most responsible, stable, mature, professional, sober, honest officers. All
those with "cowboy"
instincts and tendencies to brutality must be weeded out.
If they aren't, the result can be horrible for their victims and expensive for
As we've said before, creation of civilian review boards to hear complaints against
officers could reduce
part of the problem. If officers knew that their conduct would be judged by a public
review board, they
would tend to avoid bad behavior.