Morgantown Police union sues city after city council approves Police Review Board

Monongalia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia-Preston Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is suing the City after the city council unanimously decided to establish a Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board.

FOP’s attorney Teresa Toriseva had the following statement:

Toriseva

Civil service laws create policing standards that result in enhanced public safety statewide. Those civil service laws are not able to be manipulated based on the political whims of changing city governments. Among other things, civil service is the exclusive law for hiring, firing, promotion, and discipline of police officers statewide in West Virginia. The new Morgantown ordinance, which is politically motivated, infringes on the exclusive statutory power of the police civil service commission by creating a board with overlapping powers to investigate police officers.

Teresa Toriseva – FOP Attorney

Toriseva said police agencies are not to be “tinkered with”, especially when you consider there are already other means for citizens to offer input.

“The ability of citizens to investigate police officers is problematic because that is reserved to the Civil Service Board, which, by the way, is made up of laypeople, non-police officers.

One person on the Civil Service Board, she said, is appointed by the city, one by the business community and only one by the FOP. 

She said the FOP is never opposed to civilian input, it just does not want to be subjected to the “political whims” of the moment.

That is why the FOP filed its lawsuit on Wednesday, May 19, against the City. Toriseva said she has been instructed to take the case as far as possible, or at least until “problematic” parts of the ordinance are removed, or the entire thing is stricken.

As for what comes next, she said it’s up to the City.

“That’s for the city to answer and then for us to argue and brief our legal positions before whichever judges assigned next week, and we expect then a judge would rule in the Monongalia Co. Circuit Court,” Toriseva said. “I can tell you that the FOP has directed us, as their lawyers, to fight this to the highest court in this state, whatever that takes. So, we’re in this fight for the long haul. We believe this law is clearly illegal and we’re gonna be seeking to have it thrown out in court.”

The FOP first threatened legal action in February 2021.

When the board was passed at this week’s meeting, Morgantown Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty said: “The most critical piece is that we will as a community be contributing to this discussion about how policing will work in our community and how we like to see it unfold,” said Fetty. “How we can contribute and cooperate with the Morgantown Police Department to ensure that policing happens in a safe and careful way.”

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