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State police super starts trying to steady the ship

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s interim State Police superintendent says his work is cut out for him.

Jack Chambers took over the role this week following the abrupt resignation of his predecessor, Jan Cahill, while multifaceted investigations continue and while needing to assess the top layer of agency leadership.

“It’s a task. It’s a big task,” Chambers said Thursday on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “But I appreciate the governor having confidence in me to put me in the position. I start down the list: There’s a lot of good things going on, and we do have some areas that need to be looked into, and those, as we speak are being addressed in some form or fashion.

“The thing about it is, I can’t do it in two days — just trying to get turned around here to be honest. But we are looking into matters that have already been made public, and we’re handling the best we can right now.”

Chambers is a state police veteran who more recently worked with the state Capitol Police.

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

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.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you we don’t have a few bad apples,” Chambers said. “We have approximately 1,200 people in this agency, and if anybody thinks for a second you’re not going to have some mishaps — some of these are severe, and yes, the governor does have the backs of the troopers and he believes in us, and I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m here.”

Administration officials have described continuing to gather information rather than releasing the recent findings. State officials have alluded to turning over some information to federal investigators, which Chambers specified Thursday as the FBI.

“Of course there’s great people in this organization to help feather this out,” Chambers said, describing support from the state Department of Homeland Security and its leaders.

“Now I’ve not read a whole lot. That’s what I’ve been told and that’s what I know. I haven’t sat down with the FBI or anything like that, but this agency’s under the Department of Homeland Security so I do have constant communication with them. But to give you particulars and details, no I don’t have all of that, but I do know about the casino and the academy and things like that.”

Chambers said he will assess the leadership team at the state police.

“I don’t know yet. The superintendent has the position to appoint people and put people in positions on the senior staff. I’m not one of those people to come in and make an example or anything like that,” Chambers said. “However, I do foresee changes coming.”

The governor this week 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 at a Wednesday briefing. “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.”