WSAZ Investigates | New WVSP Chief of Staff Talks Allegations, Leading Agency Forward
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Alleged wrongdoing by high-ranking members of West Virginia State Police has been the focus of a number of WSAZ investigations.
We have been reporting about this since February. WSAZ’s Sarah Sager sat down with the agency’s new chief of staff and asked about the latest allegation: an alleged rape. She also asked about how new leadership hopes to help lead the agency out of dark times.
Two anonymous letters have been sent to state officials -- alleging wrongdoing by high-ranking members of the West Virginia State Police.
The accusations include a hidden camera system in the women’s locker room of the West Virginia State Police Academy, a trooper stealing money from a man at a casino in Cross Lanes and the governor announcing a rape investigation last week -- “maybe multiple rapes” that are under investigation by the FBI.
On Monday, WSAZ obtained a letter sent late last month from a Charleston law firm to a West Virginia State Police attorney, detailing allegations so graphic that we’ve chosen not to share much with you.
That letter put the the agency on notice of a forthcoming lawsuit -- based on an incident they say happened in December 2021. The letter states the trooper, who we have chosen not to name because he has not been charged, “drugged, kidnapped, and brutally raped” the victim.
No specific details have been released by the governor or state officials about the investigation. However, Sager asked the new West Virginia State Police Chief of Staff Maj. Jim Mitchell if that trooper is still actively working.
Sager: “Has that trooper been put on leave?”
Maj. Mitchell: “That trooper is on administrative leave.”
Sager: “You have allegations of a hidden camera system in the women’s locker room at the West Virginia State Police Academy, a theft by a trooper at a casino, you’re a CFO, so there are financial issues we have confirmed the auditor’s office is looking into, and now we have a rape allegation on top of all of this. Do you think this points to a bigger issue of not enough self-policing or internal oversight?”
Maj. Mitchell: “You’ve probably heard the old quote that absolute power corrupts. Absolutely. Everyone has to be accountable. In this position, a person might look at me as a chief of staff, a major in the West Virginia State Police. I too have accountability. I’m accountable to not only those above me, such as Col. Chambers, the governor, and the Department of Homeland Security, but I’m also accountable to the troopers that work under this rank. So with this rank comes great responsibility. I don’t look at this position as big me or little you, I just want to do the best job that we can - understanding the responsibility that lies with it.”
Sager: “For the people, I know you’re new to this position. You’ve just been put in this position last week for the people before you. Do you think there wasn’t enough of that accountability for them enough of that oversight were they not holding themselves or being accountable to the people above them?”
Maj. Mitchell: “Unfortunately, coming into this position, I’m like drinking from a fire hydrant. There’s so much that I’m having to learn in such a short amount of time. Unless you’re in this position, I don’t think that you can understand what it is like. So for me to speak for those that preceded me probably wouldn’t be a fair thing for me to do.”
Sager also asked Mitchell how he plans to improve the image of the agency -- and after 33 years in law enforcement -- why this role at this time.
Sager: “Why do you want to do this personally?”
Maj. Mitchell: “I believe in this agency. I believe in the work we do. I’ve been around a lot of amazing troopers. I hate to see these things occurring and if I can be in a position to make a difference then I want to try. I’m approaching the last few years of my career. There are a lot of young people coming up below me that have their entire career ahead of them, and I want to be able to relay to them what this agency has stood for since 1919. We don’t want to let the actions of a few determine our destiny.”
Maj. Mitchell told us in regard to the rape investigation that the trooper has actually been on administrative leave since last October when the agency became aware of the allegations.
We also have a statement from the attorney representing the alleged victim. It reads:
“Our letter to Mr. Hoyer spells out in great detail the outrageous conduct of the trooper. He preyed upon, drugged, and raped an innocent citizen of our state who he had sworn to protect and serve. He needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We intend to deal with the rest of the damage he has caused in court.”
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