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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Small Town Police Department Under Investigation by State Police

Gauley Bridge police under investigation
The Charleston Gazette by Travis Crum - February 28, 2012
Reason unclear, but speeding tickets remain highest in state

GAULEY BRIDGE, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State Police have seized boxes of records and several computers as part of an investigation into the Gauley Bridge Police Department, said Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris. Harris said he's not permitted to talk about the investigation's details and said he hasn't heard back from the State Police since the investigation began. The records and computers were seized a year ago. When questioned about the investigation last year, State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous would neither confirm nor deny it. On Tuesday, Baylous confirmed Harris' statement, but would not say what the investigation is about. Gauley Bridge Mayor Byron Winebrenner said he heard rumors a year ago about the State Police looking into the city's records involving citations. The mayor said a man on the street told him that a State Police trooper was loading boxes of Gauley Bridge police files into a cruiser. In the past four years, police in Gauley Bridge -- which has 614 residents, according to the 2010 Census -- have issued more than 6,000 speeding tickets. That's more than any other city or town in the state, according to the state Division of Motor Vehicles. In 2002, Gauley Bridge reported issuing 28 speeding ticket convictions to the DMV for the entire year. That number rose to 268 the following year, after current Police Chief Shawn Whipkey joined the force in December 2002. About 50 percent of the town's revenue is generated from speeding citations, according to records. Despite those numbers, Winebrenner said he knows everyone on the police force and said they are doing their job in protecting the town from speeders. "What part of 25 miles per hour and 45 miles per hour do people not understand?" he said. "We even give them 9 miles per hour over."

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