Executive Summary

The West Virginia State Police was created in 1919 under §15-2-1 of the West Virginia Code. The mission of the State Police is:

"... Statewide enforcement of criminal and traffic law with emphasis on providing basic enforcement and citizen protection from criminal depredation throughout the state and maintaining the safety of the state's public streets, roads and highways."

The State Police Academy also trains the majority of the state's local law- enforcement officers utilizing the standards established by the Law-enforcement Training Subcommittee of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Highway Safety under the Department of Public Safety. This installment of the Preliminary Performance Review found the following;

Issue Area: The West Virginia State Police Academy Provides Inadequate Drivers' Training to Cadets and Local Law-Enforcement Cadets.

The West Virginia State Police Academy located at Institute is responsible for providing every graduate with the basic skills required of a professional law-enforcement officer. An important skill of an academy graduate is the operation of a vehicle under a variety of circumstances and speeds. This includes routine operation, responding to emergencies and high-speed pursuits of persons fleeing the police. During training, however, Cadets are provided little or no training on the equipment they utilize the most: the police vehicle. Both State Police and local law-enforcement cadets (Basic Course Cadets) are provided over 75 hours of training in using firearms, equipment they rarely have to use. However, under the current training program State Police Cadets are provided 24.5 hours of training during the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC). Only thirty minutes of the training is dedicated to actual behind-the-wheel operation of the vehicle. Basic Course Cadets, which consist of local law-enforcement officers, i.e., County, Municipal, Campus Security and DNR Officers, also train at the academy. These Cadets have not had the benefit of the limited EVOC training for the last two years.

The elimination of this training for Basic Course Cadets and providing only a limited training program for State Police Cadets increases the risk of harm to West Virginia citizens and legal action against the state because law-enforcement officers are not trained adequately on the proper handling of a police vehicle. Other States have already seen the need for realistic drivers' training and have built facilities to provide more intensive drivers' training to law-enforcement officers.

Recommendation 1:
The West Virginia State Police should increase the amount of behind-the- wheel training time it provides cadets and should provide this training to basic class cadets.

Recommendation 2:
The West Virginia State Police should provide a study/plan of the cost to build a drivers' training facility. The plan should include what the agency needs to accomplish proper training and provide for future needs. In addition, the study should include a comparison of the costs to train cadets in an accessible private facility and a facility ran by a neighboring state. The study/plan should include how this could be accomplished, per diem costs, whether counties and local governments should share in the costs to provide this training and how to provide training to the state's law-enforcement community who have not received adequate training. The Committee on Government Operations should consider requiring the State Police to report this information back to the Committee in February, 2001.

Recommendation 3:
The Legislature should consider a state requirement for all law-enforcement officers to receive a minimum number of hours of behind-the -wheel training to ensure the law-enforcement community are trained properly.

Recommendation 4:
The West Virginia State Police should consider enhancing its drivers' training program with either driving simulators, an apparatus such as the skid car system or both.