Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Prosecute Corrupt Politicians and Corporate Criminals

What WV Can’t Wait For

Our state police force will be fairly compensated, fully staffed, and will lead the nation in rooting out political corruption and corporate crime.  
fight corruption3

What We’re Up Against

“I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.”

--Mother Jones

Right now, we have two criminal justice systems: one for the rich, and one for the rest of us.

The Southern Poverty Law Center agrees: you fare better if you're guilty and rich, instead of poor and innocent.

That’s not right or fair

Yet police officers are often directed to spend their time and resources on victimless and low-level crimes, while the wealthy, who are rarely targeted for investigation, get off scot-free or with a slap on the wrist.

Those causing the most harm at the largest scales--those who steal our money, our health, our land--face few consequences, if any. The examples are stark: it's cheaper to pay fines than follow worker safety regulations, so they steal from us over and over again.

We know these stories: 300,000 West Virginians had their water poisoned on Gary Southern's watch. This CEO of Freedom Industries only spent a month in prison. Don Blankenship spent just a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety rules, after 29 miners died at his Upper Big Branch mine.

This is the history of West Virginia.

This system fails all of us, even police officers. We hear it on the campaign trail all the time:

  • “We spend more time on users than dealers, more time on someone who steals $100 than $100,000.”
  • “This isn’t what I signed up for.”
  • “I have to work overtime and run a business on the side, just to make ends meet.”
  • “Since I was a kid, I wanted to go after the real criminals who are. Instead, I’m being asked to be a social worker. I’m not trained for that.”
  • “We went form an investigative state police to a 9-1-1 call-taking agency… and I went from 2-4 calls per shift to 8-12 calls per shift.”

It is no wonder that the state police force has shrunk over the last decade: as we ask officers to carry more and more, but offer them less and less support.

It doesn't have to be this way.

 

Our Plan

  1. Create two new special divisions to the State Police force (in addition to the current Bureau of Criminal Investigation), and shift our resources to go after the white-collar criminals who are getting rich off our pain, and our work. Incentivize county prosecutors to pursue charges against corporate criminals and corrupt politicians by ensuring that a percentage of the dollars saved in these cases return to county government.
    • A Corporate Crime Division. At full capacity, this will constitute roughly 60 officers working in an inter-agency way to combat wage theft, air and water pollution, surface owners rights violations, union-busting, discrimination, opioid distribution, use tax violations, payroll tax violations, unpaid corporate and individual tax bills and more. Ensure that every major on-the-job injury or death is investigated.
      • We must also strengthen the laws against corporate crime. This should include passing the nation’s strongest False Claims Act (modeled after the New York False Claims Act) targeting companies for health care fraud, tax fraud, and consumer fraud. We will also review and reform the rules governing how out-of-state credit companies, monopolies and financial institutions take advantage of local businesses (fraud protection, etc.).
    • A Political Corruption Division. At full capacity, this will constitute roughly 40 officers working in an inter-agency way to combat ethics violations, vote-buying, quid pro quo arrangements between contractors and lawmakers, discrimination in state government, local and state-level corruption, and more.
      • We must also strengthen the laws against political corruption and enforce government ethics, to reduce bias and graft in our courthouses, city halls, and state government agencies. Please also see our plan to End Election Buying.
  2. Expand the white-collar crime and corruption investigation and prosecution units proportionally, commensurate with disaster or emergency spending. A certain percentage of disaster or emergency relief packages will be set aside for fraud prevention, allowing for sufficient monitoring and enforcement, because it is scaled to the amount of relief spending.
    • Create more detailed conflict-of-interest/self-dealing prevention measures during states of emergency and other disasters, when politicians are more likely to self-deal.
    • Focus resources on larger/more complex fraud and self-dealing (as opposed to aiming at street-level fraud).
  3. Establish a commission of current and retired state police officers to work in collaboration with crime victims, community leaders, and ex-offenders to strengthen and modernize the state police force. This commission will:
    • Make West Virginia’s state police a national leader in equity and racial justice by: establishing zero tolerance laws for misconduct and racial bias; tracking and instituting accountability measures around racial arrest and incarceration disparities; establishing Crisis Stabilization Units (see Recovery Can’t Wait plan); permitting citizens to bring charges of bias against officers; staffing an independent Office of Police Investigations that is separate from the rest of the agency; and working regularly with the state police Taxpayer Council to continue to seek equity for communities across race and class.
    • Establish a clearer path for promotion, and more leadership training and support for state police officers who want to move up the ranks (akin to the Texas model which includes a pathway from Troopers to Special Agents to Rangers).
    • Modernize the state’s police academy to prepare officers to 1) shift focus toward long-term, collaborative investigative work against corporate and political criminals, 2) adopt de-escalation tactics proven to reduce violent incidents, and 3) prepare for the decriminalization of substance use disorder (shifting people with addictions to the healthcare system and away from the criminal justice system). This would also include an additional $2 million allocation each year for training and continuing education outside the academy--so state police officers can attend top-of-the-line training around the country and bring lessons back to local departments throughout West Virginia.
    • Create a mental health program that meets the particular needs of police officers and the trauma they face everyday. An additional $2 million annually would be available to this commission to use toward mental health and other resources for officers.
    • Work toward making West Virginia a national leader in de-escalation tactics (to protect officers and citizens alike), eliminating race and class bias, and shifting of police resources from incarceration to treatment in cases of mental illness and substance use disorder.
    • Create a statewide police conduct database in order to make sure local police departments have all relevant information before making hires.
    • Establish more and stronger working relationships with local and federal law enforcement agencies.
  4. Institute a $10,000 average raise for all state police officers to help recruit the next generation of officers. State police officers will also be eligible for the Take Me Home loan forgiveness plan. We must also set higher standards to increase the safety of the public and police:
    • Establish an independent civilian review board, with close ties to other law enforcement agencies, so state police officers are not policing themselves.
    • End the police rape loophole: there is no such thing as consensual sex with an on-duty police officer.
    • Encourage and incentivize local police departments to achieve national training and accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).
    • Work with federal government to help provide local departments with crucial safety equipment—bullet proof vests, body cameras, etc.
  5. We will also directly engage state police officers in our efforts to prevent and treat substance use disorder, fight racism and discrimination, and protect children and families -- so that law enforcement officers can help us prevent crime before it happens.

How We Pay For It

Net revenue: $86 million

Costs: $14 million

  • Administration for the two new anti-corruption divisions: $1.5 million each
  • Additional training for state police officers: $2 million
  • Mental health services for officers: $2 million
  • Raises for state police officers: $7 million

Revenues: $100 million

At full capacity, we expect this to generate an additional $100+ million, per year, conservatively. Government staffers and advocates have estimated privately that more than $100 million per year is left on the table in unpaid use taxes and income taxes alone.

  1.  

Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.

  • Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
  • Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
  • Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
  • Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
  • Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.

But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.

No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.

If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at stephen@wvcantwait.com.

 

FUND THE
MOVEMENT

 

We created a movement together, a movement to build a people’s government by and for working people—not millionaires. When we fight each other we lose. When we fight FOR each other, we win.

JOIN THE
MOVEMENT

 

We have hundreds of volunteers in every corner of the state, and a whole slate of Not-For-Sale candidates running together. It will take 1,000 leaders not 1 to win a West Virginia that works for all of us.