- Governor Jim Justice ordered “an all-out investigation” of the West Virginia State Police after allegations of serious wrongdoing.
- He accepted the resignation of State Police Superintendent Jan Cahill and appointed Jack Chambers as interim superintendent.
- Justice said the “very biggest” allegation was that an employee, who has since died, placed a video camera in a women’s locker room.
- “The more we dug, the worse it stunk,” Justice said. “We’re going to clean it up.”
A sweeping investigation of the West Virginia State Police is underway following allegations of serious wrongdoing, including that a video camera was placed inside a women’s locker room.
Governor Jim Justice said Monday he had accepted the resignation of State Police Superintendent Jan Cahill and appointed Jack Chambers, the deputy director of the Capitol Police, as interim superintendent.
During a video briefing with reporters, the Republican governor said Chambers will conduct “an all-out investigation” to replace one that started last month under Cahill, who had served as the state police superintendent since Justice took office in 2017.
A separate administrative investigation by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security remains active and ongoing, the governor’s office said.
The department began investigating after the governor’s office received an anonymous letter alleging wrongdoing by top leadership, according to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
The allegations, first reported by WCHS-TV, include fights and extramarital affairs, high-level staffers engaging in inappropriate behavior in state offices and the use of ghost accounts to tap public money for personal purchases.
But the “very biggest” allegation, Justice said, was that a state police employee had hidden a video camera in the women’s locker room at a facility.
He did not say exactly when the incident occurred, saying it could have been 2014 or 2016 and before Cahill took over. The employee responsible later died of an apparent heart attack while jogging, Justice said.
“To me, it is absolutely not to be tolerated in any way,” Justice said. “But it gets even worse.”
Three troopers found a thumb drive, Justice said, “and from that they found the video.” At least one of the troopers “immediately jerked the thumb drive out, threw it to the floor and started stomping on it.”
Justice said: “You can’t make this stuff up, can you? Really and truly. Now we’ve got law enforcement officers destroying evidence.”
The governor added that “maybe we won’t be able to recover much information. Maybe many troopers or whatever are long gone. Maybe there’s no way to recover evidence, but we ought to try. We ought to try because we’re better than this.”
Another allegation that will be investigated, Justice said, is that a trooper stole money from a man at a casino in Charleston. The man was playing a video machine with a trooper close by, Justice said. When the man got up to go to the restroom, an envelope fell out of his seat and the trooper picked it up and kept the contents.
“Basically, any way you cut it, that money was stolen,” Justice said.
State police should have immediately launched an investigation, but that did not happen, the governor said. “I’m asking Jack Chambers to reopen that investigation and handle it properly.”
Justice also said the investigation will look into a “loss of life” on Interstate 81. He provided no details of that incident but said he has seen a video of what happened and it is “very, very concerning.”
Chambers “has really got to get into this as well,” Justice said.
According to The Herald-Mail, Justice appears to be referencing the death of Edmond Exline.
State police said troopers had responded to a report of a man walking along the interstate on February 12. Following a brief struggle, Exline became unresponsive and was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The Herald-Mail said it had filed a Freedom of Information Act request with state police asking for any footage of the incident, but the request was denied.
Three troopers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation’s completion.
“We need to support our police, and we need to clean up our own houses when we have a problem,” Justice said.
He continued: “It’s a bad day. It’s been a bad day ever since, you know, people started coming out with allegations, and the more we dug, the worse it stunk…. We’re going to clean it up, and we’re going to absolutely make it a place of honor beyond belief.”
Newsweek has contacted the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and the governor’s office by email for further comment.