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Richwood Council Dissolves Police Department Before Arrest Of Former Officer

Reported: Jan. 30, 2014 7:28 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 31, 2014 8:54 AM EST
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RICHWOOD, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- A Nicholas County town is without a police department after city council votes to dissolve it.

Controversy sparked on the heels of news that an officer was stealing prescription pills from evidence room.

Richwood is a town in the eastern part of Nicholas County with around 2,000 people. It's a place Shane Daff has always called home.

"I don't want to be a police officer somewhere else. I want to be a police officer here. I grew up here," Daff said.

Daff was a Richwood police officer up until Jan. 2, the day the city council voted to dissolve the four man department. He was supposed to be going to the state police academy to become certified just three days before he unexpectedly lost his job.

"The day I lost my job, it almost felt like they accomplished something that day. To me, that's the way they seemed to act, almost like they were proud of themselves," Daff said.

Daff's father, John, has started a petition he plans to send to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. He claims the vote to dissolve the department was taken in executive session, behind closed doors.

He claims no one was aware the issue was even going to be taken up.

"I just feel like we're being closed out, and we should be a part of the voice in this town," John Daff said.

Eyewitness News went to Richwood City Hall to try and get answers, and put in repeated requests for comment from Mayor Bob Johnson, but has not received a response.

We did speak with Recorder Ronnie Bragg, who would not make a statement on camera.

He disputed Daff's claims, but was not able to provide a copy of the agenda or minutes from the January 2 meeting that is in question.

When asked why the decision was made to dissolve the department, he said a recent news release should explain a lot.

He's referring to the arrest of Gerald Paul Tinney earlier this week. State Police said Tinney, on Dec. 26, 2013, while employed as an officer with city of Richwood, used a ladder to climb into the police chief's office. There, he allegedly got keys to the evidence room where he stole 30 hydrocodone pills and some marijuana.

State Police said Tinney even snorted one of those pills inside the department.

"I told him before he pinned on that badge, I said dont even do anything to discredit this badge. Sadly enough, we've had a couple officers here that has discredited. It's heartbreaking," John Daff said, speaking of when his son Shane first became a police officer.

Bragg also indicated the decision was made because none of the officers were certified through the West Virginia State Police Academy, even though Daff was scheduled to go on Jan. 6.

Bragg also indicated it would be cheaper and more efficient for police protection to be provided through an outside source, like the state police, rather than pay the $22,000 a month it cost to run the department. He said a contract between the state police and the city was in the works.

The Daff's, however, are concerned for Richwood's safety.

"I think we need a lot of answers to a lot of these questions, which no one will give us, John Daff said.

"People have their opinion of Richwood PD, but I wanted to make it more than it was," Shane Daff said.

West Virginia State Police said they are aware of the situation in Richwood.

We are willing to assist the citizens of Richwood in maintaining the peace and are currently discussing the best possible methods to do so," Lt. Michael Baylous said.



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