By Bob Weaver

West Virginia's new State Police superintendent, Col. Howard E. Hill, Jr. has advised all 911 based dispatch centers he desires to build a spirit of cooperation with his agency. "I have directed every Troop Commander in the State Police to ensure that a member of his or her command contact the appropriate personnel."

Hill said he is encouraging interagency cooperation and desires to expand the department's association with 911 centers around the state. Recently, the agency did not advise Calhoun Control of when the numbers on trooper's cruisers changed.

State Police supervisor Sgt. David Garrett of Spencer declined public information requests regarding the operations of the department in Calhoun County. Local State Police officers became angry when The Hur Herald printed a memo regarding a decision to no longer provide after hours coverage, claiming it was a departmental memo. The Herald said such information was the concern of Calhoun citizens.

Afterwards, Sgt. Garrett advised local detachment commander Sgt. John Bonazzo to rescind the policy stating the agency would "take any and all calls." Garrett stated he had counseled Sgt. Bonazzo regarding the matter. Garrett and the detachment commander still declined a public information request regarding the policy change, but copies of the memos were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

State Police failed to communicate their policy changes with Calhoun Sheriff Allen Parsons or the Grantsville Police Department, accusing those agencies of not taking after hours calls. Sheriff Allen Parsons and Grantsville Police Chief McCroskey said such information was a mis-representation. Parsons said "I have always answered all calls, along with my deputies, at any hour." He stated most people in Calhoun are well aware of his department's after hours work.

During the past few days, the agencies dispatch center in Charleston seemed to renew their earlier policy, telling Calhoun Control that State Police in Calhoun would not be taking after hours call. They would do so on the weekends. Sgt. Garrett has declined several public information requests to clarify the issue.

All informational requests directed to State Police in Grantsville or Spencer have been ignored, in direct violation of public access. Simple requests regarding incidents, accidents or investigations have not been forthcoming.

Colonel Hill says his agency needs an overhaul, particularly with attitude and a greater awareness toward the public they serve. He has openly stated he wants to restore credibility. Hill was disturbed when the agencies insurance policy climbed to one and one-half million dollars because of numerous lawsuits linked to misconduct.

Delegate Larry Faircloth has led a legislative committee investigating police misconduct in West Virginia. Faircloth believes the internal investigation process is inappropriate, and "green on green" investigations are not accountable to the public.

The Hur Herald in 1999 was unable to obtain the number of professional misconduct complaints filed against officers in Calhoun County, using the Freedom of Information Act.

The lack of communication between the State Police and other agencies is at an all-time low. Col. Hill is calling for a "renewed spirit of cooperation."

The Herald wrote to the agency stating "We stand ready to support the West Virginia State Police in whatever way we can, and sincerely hold with respect the challenging work facing law enforcement." The Herald has stated its primary issue is one of public information.


The following is a verbatim copy of material obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, after police declined to make available the policy regarding police coverage in Calhoun County. The material was provided by Lt. Colonel C. G. White, under the direction of Col. Howard E. Hill:

MEMO ONE: From Sgt. John Bonazzo to Calhoun Control Dispatchers (May 10, 2001)

With the transfer of TFC Ellyson, our detachment is shorthanded. This combined with the fact my officers must attend state police schools such as in-services and SRT training, etc, vacations, CDO's, etc. makes our man power situation even worse. We must adopt the following policy in regards to calls after hours.

The state police will take calls after hours that come in through the state dispatch center. We cannot take night calls from Calhoun Control. Please do not call my officers direct or South Charleston for night calls. Each independent department should be answering their own after hours calls.

If the call is a 911 emergency, by all means my officers should be contacted, but routine calls such as accidents, public intoxication, etc. should be handled by each respective department.

If you receive a state police schedule and it has an officer listed on call, this is for emergency situations only. The officer on-call is not to answer any routine calls. If you have a call and the schedule says an officer is on-call, we do not have anybody. If there are no local units available then Clay County or Roane County will probably have to take the call. Legally and technically I cannot make a trooper be on-call during his time off. Thank You.

MEMO TWO: From F/Sgt. David E. Garrett to Captain D. R. Searls, May 17, 2001 reference Sgt. Bonazzo:

On Monday the 14th day of May, 2001, I received a copy of a memo sent to Calhoun 911 Center from Sgt. Bonazzo. I contacted Sgt. Bonazzo at his residence and discussed the memo with him. Sgt. Bonazzo advised me that the Calhoun Sheriff's Department and the Grantsville City Police were no longer taking 911 calls after hours. One of Sgt. Bonazzo's concerns was that the 911 center was calling the troopers at their residence and giving them calls without calling the state police communications center.

I advised Sgt. Bonazzo that we would answer any and all calls for service from the public from any source. I advised Sgt. Bonazzo it would be preferable if the 911 center called the State Police Communications Center so they can call out the proper trooper and so that the Communications Center knows what the trooper is going on and where he is going.

I advised Sgt. Bonazzo that he should discuss this with the Director of the 911 Center and explain the reason for this. I advised Sgt. Bonazzo that the bottom line was that we would answer any and all calls. I advised Sgt. Bonazzo that he could require a trooper to be available when they are on call or off duty.

On Thursday the 17th day of May, 2001, I advised Sgt. Bonazzo to write a memo to the Calhoun County 911 Center rescinding his first memo and advising the Grantsville State Police would take any and all calls.

MEMO THREE: To Barry Pitts, 911 Director from Sgt. Bonazzo on 5/18/01:

Please disregard my last memo. There seems to have been confusion about the same. The State Police will take any and all calls given to them. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you.

MEMO FOUR: To Lt. Colonel S. W. Booth from Captain D. R. Searls on May 22, 2001, regarding Sgt. Bonazzo and the Hur Herald.

You will find attached to the memo a copy of a memo prepared by 1st Sgt. David H. Garrett reference his counseling of Sergeant J. W. Bonazzo on Monday, May 14, 2001, regarding the memo generated by Sgt. Bonazzo to Calhoun County 911 Center reference the Grantsville Detachment's call taking policy. You will find attached to this memo a memo dated Friday, May 18, 2001 from Sgt. Bonazzo to Barry Pitts to disregard the previous memo and also advising Pitts that the State Police in Calhoun County will take any and all calls for service that they receive. I have been advised that after 1st Sgt. Garrett counseled Sgt. Bonazzo on Monday, May 14, 2001 and prior to Sgt. Bonazzo issuing the second memo, Sgt. Bonazzo contacted all the pertinent parties and smoothed things over. I have also been advised that the Grantsville Detachment did not miss any calls for service because of Sgt. Bonazzo's first memo.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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