The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 24, 2013

Beckley police discuss accreditation

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Beckley Police Chief Tim Deems and Services Commander Capt. Lonnie Christian spoke in depth with Beckley Common Council about the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) Tuesday night.

In September 2012, Councilman Ron Booker suggested the Beckley Police Department participate in the law enforcement accreditation program after “at least five detrimental issues in the past six years,” most notably an instance of missing evidence involving a former evidence technician.

“We are not opposed to accreditation if we are provided with the resources to be successful,” Deems said.

He and Christian attended a CALEA conference, where they participated in workshops and spoke with many other agencies that plan on becoming accredited.

As of right now, Deems said, “Our facility would not meet accreditation standards.”

He said in his opinion it is a “cost prohibitive” plan and would require a long-term commitment, not only by the police department, but by the city as well.

“We approached this from a neutral angle,” Christian explained.

He said a committee was formed to determine what hurdles the department would need to overcome to meet accreditation standards. He explained there are 39 categories with 188 standards that must be met for approval.

These standards include everything from policies and procedures, to the setup of holding cells and record rooms.

He also noted that CALEA recommends hiring a full-time accreditation manager to oversee the application process.

BPD has not hired a full-time manager, but simply divided the 188 standards among the officers to review when their schedule allows.

So far, Christian said the department has logged 110 hours of meetings and research dedicated to CALEA.

“We are 33 percent complete reviewing the standards. We want to address any potential stumbling blocks.”

Councilman Cedric Robertson asked if some of the problems are with the current facility. Deems replied that the building they are currently in was built a number of years ago, and it was not intended to be a police department.

“The way the department is set up would not meet their standards. There are no functional problems there, it’s just a CALEA standard.”

Booker said that the Board of Public Works does a tremendous job and he does not believe renovations or room restructuring would be an issue for them.

“Accountability and integrity must be brought back to our city,” Booker said. “We cannot put a price tag on this.”

Both Deems and Christian agreed that implementing many CALEA standards would make them a better police department.

But Deems added, “To say you’re accredited means nothing without the effort behind it.”

Whether or not the department attempts to become accredited with CALEA, Deems assured Council members that they plan on implementing positive changes.

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Under new business, Chief Deems announced the Beckley Police Department is in the process of putting together a new unit — the Special Enforcement Unit, which will handle traffic issues, street crimes, and quality of life issues, such as dogs barking or neighborhood disputes.

This unit will be housed at the South Fayette Street location and no 911 calls will be received there.

Deems said the unit will be headed by Lt. Jake Corey. Corey will oversee two full-time officers, as well as the officer who works at Woodrow Wilson High School, during the summer months.

“This is going to shock you,” Councilman Booker said. “But I agree with you.”

Booker said he believes this unit will be very beneficial to the city.

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A bid from WG Contracting and Development was approved for the Beckley Police Department and Beckley Fire Department roofs for just under $81,000 with a 10-year warranty.

An additional $11,900 will be made in electrical upgrades.

Mayor Emmett Pugh said the bid for a roof at fire station No. 1 was too high and must be re-bid.

The Pikeview Drive fire department will receive a roof from Foamcoat Roofing and Coating for just over $40,000 with a 15-year warranty.

Only one bid was received for a new multi-purpose vehicle for the fire department — Pierce Manufacturing won the bid for $593,574. This vehicle will aid in rescue purposes, as well as petroleum fires.

An ordinance was approved for the City of Beckley to auction miscellaneous tools, equipment, and vehicles seized by civil forfeiture law on Saturday, May 18 at 9:30 a.m. at New River Park.

Council also approved a $2,500 grant the Beckley Little League received from the Community Participation Grant Program, which will be used to offset the cost of a batting cage.

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During public comments, three representatives from Club 3D Sports Bar — Robin Buck, Rhonda Baker, and Curry Woolridge — came to address Council about allegedly being harassed by the Beckley Police Department.

They alleged multiple instances that up to four police cars were parked in the club parking lot, waiting to pull over patrons as they left.

They claim that other bars in the city are not as heavily frequented by the police department, and assured Council that they try to deter drinking and driving by offering a shuttle service, or even to pay for taxi fare for inebriated customers.

Chief Deems encouraged them to provide specific examples, as all the police cars are equipped with surveillance videos.

Councilman Tom Sopher was quick to jump to Deems’ defense: “He is trying to help our citizens.”

Booker, however, said four cop cars in one parking lot is “unheard of” and he said just because you operate a bar, does not mean it’s necessarily bad.

“We have a zero tolerance for drinking and driving,” Deems said. “We take it very seriously. This is not the first club owner I’ve heard from. If people aren’t drinking, they’re not making money. They’re in it for business, but we’re trying to keep the roads safe.”

The next Common Council meeting will be held Tuesday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com