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New State Police superintendent: ‘Going to take some time’ to shore up the agency

The newly named State Police superintendent says there’s plenty of work ahead to shore up the agency, determine whether all upper level managers are appropriate for their roles and dive more deeply into a multi-faceted investigation that already led to the resignation of his predecessor.

“I’m going to look at every position that’s appointed in the State Police, evaluate those — I have to get some information from everybody first,” new Superintendent Jack Chambers said during a briefing today.

“But I can’t give you a timetable to be honest with you. This is going to take me some time. I’ve been down there one day, and I was covered up that day, yesterday, all day. So I will be looking at stuff, evaluating stuff, revisiting investigations and issues that we have.”

Chambers, who most recently served with the state Capitol Police, described confidence in the personnel of the State Police overall.

“We have a great bunch of people at the West Virginia State Police,” he said, adding that he met many agency employees while visiting facilities. “There’s a lot of wondering on their face, a lot of looks. And I am going to do my best to help change that. We do a lot of good things, a whole lot of good things.

“We’ve got a couple of hiccups right now and we’ve got several things going on that will be addressed and are going to be looked at, and hopefully this won’t happen in the future. We’re going to have mishaps, but we will look into everything that comes my way and I’m going to see that it does come my way so I can address it with the people I have.”

Gov. Jim Justice announced the resignation of Jan Cahill as State Police superintendent Monday at an inflection point of a broad investigation that seems primed to continue at multiple levels.

Justice today praised Cahill’s past work, broadly described problems, expressed concern about morale across the agency and said leaders need to move ahead.

“Jan Cahill did a lot of good work. That’s all there is to it,” Justice said today. “Sure there were real live mistakes made here, and that’s all there is to it. And people, we’ve got to move on. We’re taking down the whole, entire State Police morale-wise and everything else across this whole state.

“There were mistakes made, big time mistakes. The leadership has to be addressed. We’ve got to move on.”

Earlier this week, the governor said the inquiries involved video recordings in a State Police women’s locker room several years ago, the more recent destruction of a hard drive where some of those recordings had been stored, the involvement of a trooper in a casino theft, and an active investigation over a death along Interstate 81 involving troopers.

Earlier, the Justice administration had described an investigation led by the state Department of Homeland Security reaching its conclusive stages. But this week, representatives of the administration said the planned action on the report was upended by Cahill’s abrupt resignation.

Now, state officials speak in terms of continuing to gather information rather than releasing the recent findings. State officials have alluded to turning over some information to federal investigators, not specifically naming an agency.

“With respect to the entire report being released, many of those items as I detailed the other day will be followed on with law enforcement and be incorporated into, potentially, their reports, which would not be subject to release,” said Brian Abraham, the governor’s chief of staff.

“So there may be a point where some of these items are releasable to the public, but then many of them will not be and that’s just the course of ongoing criminal investigations.”

In public comments this week, Cahill contended that he was set up as a fall guy for issues at the State Police. “I felt like these guys were just handed this investigation: Find something,” he said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “I think it’s been totally unfair.”

Cahill had been superintendent since the Justice administration took office in 2017.

Abraham today said maybe Cahill didn’t fully grasp what the job was.

“I would not assert that Jan Cahill attempted to mislead the public or the media but perhaps he didn’t understand the roles and responsibilities associated with being the superintendent of the State Police,” Abraham said.

The governor praised the work of the State Police but agreed the inquiry must continue.

“These events that have happened are really, really unfortunate. And who they’re unfortunate for is the trooper that’s out there on the front lines,” Justice said. “There’s a lot of good work going on in the State Police of West Virginia.

“When things happen like this, you react. And absolutely, there’s no question that there’s some really bad stuff that has happened. Now we don’t want to just say ‘Let’s go on and forget about it.’ We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to do that on my watch at all. No way. No matter how much egg throwing happens, I’m just not doing that.”