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New chief not expected soon in Shepherdstown

December 01, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - It could be up to six months before Shepherdstown gets a new police chief, Mayor Peter Wilson said Tuesday.

Following Charles Cole's resignation from the position on Oct. 27, the town has pursued a two-track process for filling the position, Wilson said.

The first priority will be to name an interim chief, Wilson said.

While people in the police department have been taking on administrative responsibilities, it is not a situation that the town wants to continue for an extended time period, the mayor said.

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A Shepherdstown Town Council police committee is looking for an interim chief and town officials may have a candidate for that position by next week, Wilson said.

The next priority will be to select a permanent police chief, Wilson said.

Because of various factors involved in the search process, such as giving the person selected enough time to get on the job, finding a police chief could take between two and six months, Wilson said.

A committee heading up the selection process is determining what qualities the town would like to have in its police chief, Wilson said.

Saying there is a rift between the police department and some town residents, Wilson said town officials want a police chief who will understand the makeup of Shepherdstown.

Because Shepherdstown is a college town, home to Shepherd University, there are many people who will question authority, Wilson said. As a result, Wilson said he wants a police chief who will train the town's officers to deal with situations in a variety of ways, from physical force to using conversation to cool off situations.

"I think the code word here is community policing," Wilson said.

"You could get a warm body tomorrow, but we don't need a warm body. We want to do it right," Wilson said.

After determining what qualities the next police chief should have, the search committee will advertise the position and interview candidates, Wilson said. The candidates likely will be narrowed to a group of finalists and the committee probably will come up with several candidates to present to the town council for consideration, Wilson said.

Cole, who was the police chief for five years, said he resigned because he could not agree with Wilson over the management of the police department.

Cole's resignation followed a difference of opinion in town about the police department.

Wilson has said that many people in town believed the police department does not respect them and some business owners feel the police department does not understand them.

Cole's resignation also follows the 2002 arrest of a woman in Shepherdstown which led to allegations of excessive force by a police officer.

Cole later concluded that no excessive force was used when Nancy VanTol was arrested on Aug. 30, 2002, and the case against VanTol eventually was dismissed after a judge ruled that the town took too long to pursue the case.

Wilson has said that some residents felt that the VanTol case was never fully resolved.

Despite the concerns, Cole said at the time of his resignation that he always felt his department acted in a professional manner.

Cole, a 23-year veteran of the West Virginia State Police, said he had an open-door policy in running the department and developed procedures on how town residents could make complaints about officer actions.

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