CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a Kanawha Circuit Court decision in a lawsuit involving the firing of a Charleston police officer who failed to warn a fellow officer of a loaded gun in a vehicle.
The court said it found no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error, leading it to affirm the circuit court's order as appropriate, according to the June 22 memorandum decision.
On June 9, 2010, during a traffic stop and vehicle search, Rick A. Edwards, the former Charleston police officer, witnessed two suspects transitioning a loaded pistol while inside their vehicle, but failed to inform another less experienced officer who was present at the scene and failed to take appropriate precautionary measures upon recognition of the weapon.
Edwards did not arrest the driver or passenger in the vehicle and allowed them to drive away with their weapons, according to the decision.
During an investigation following the incident, Edwards made untrue statements regarding the location of the weapon in the vehicle and misrepresented the amount of ammunition in the weapons.
The commission found that Edwards' dishonesty was intended to cover up his failure to warn his fellow officer on the scene and his failure to take precautionary measures upon recognition of the weapon.
The Charleston Police Department Conduct Review Hearing Board considered the termination recommendation issued by the chief of police at a hearing on Jan. 28, 2011.
The hearing board sustained the allegations against Edwards and ordered his employment be terminated because he failed to obey regulations. Edwards appealed the order and requested a hearing with the commission.
Upon hearing the issue, the CPD Civil Service Commission affirmed and sustained the hearing board's decision. Edwards then appealed the commission's decision to Kanawha Circuit Court and, after it affirmed the decision, he appealed to the Supreme Court.
Edwards asserts that the incidents underlying the discharge of petitioner were minor in nature and are insufficient to warrant termination.
"We find that petitioner has not put forth sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the conclusions of the commission and the circuit court are clearly wrong," the decision states. "Instead, petitioner has merely asserted excuses for why he should not be terminated–these assertions are insufficient to overcome the clearly wrong standard of review."
The Supreme Court ruled that the circuit court did not err in upholding the commission’s decision sustaining petitioner’s termination.
W.Va. Supreme Court case number: 14-1219