W.Va. State Police Colonel speaks out about wrongdoing allegations

Col. Jan Cahill, head of the West Virginia State Police, sat down Friday with WSAZ to discuss allegations of wrongdoing against ranking members of his agency.
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 8:23 PM EST
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INSTITUTE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia State Police Col. Jan Cahill spoke out Friday in response to allegations against his agency and, in doing so, expressed a lack of confidence in the resulting investigation.

His interview with WSAZ NewsChannel 3′s Curtis Johnson comes weeks after a five-page, anonymous letter that detailed serious allegations of wrongdoing against high-ranking members of the State Police.

The letter was sent to state officials and lawmakers in February. Among its allegations: a “ghost account” used for purchases, falsified overtime and a hidden camera system placed in the women’s locker room at the State Police training academy.

“What’s your overall response to the allegations?” Johnson asked.

“When I saw the letter, I was actually underwhelmed,” he replied.

Cahill stated he didn’t lay eyes on the letter until mid-February. Johnson asked about the allegations, specifically the hidden camera system.

“Was there a hidden camera in that locker room?” he asked.

“I would say, I can’t say for sure,” Cahill replied. “I never did see any film, any footage. Again, I’m told about this probably five years after it occurred and, again, it’s confusing to try to convey to somebody -- you’re told about a conversation that three, four people had about a thumb drive that was destroyed.”

Cahill went on to say, “During this conversation, that’s brought to my attention years later -- again, a previous administration, whether that’s got anything to do with it or not -- but, what I’m being told, if I believe the people that say they saw this, I mean yes, it would appear there was something going on in the female locker room.”

“When were you made aware of it?” Johnson asked.

“Late 2020,” Cahill replied.

“Was everybody that was in those videos notified,” Johnson asked.

“There was only one person,” Cahill replied. “That letter that you’re holding, I think said there was tens of hours of footage and 10 people. We were never told, but just one person.”

Johnson also inquired about the ghost account.

“It’s a card that’s associated with travel,” Cahill replied. “If we found out that someone was buying a hot tub on their purchasing card or went to Disney, or something like that, we’re going to be all over that. I mean it’s a non issue. To this date, we haven’t discovered anything.”

Cahill also says they haven’t found any instances of falsified overtime.

About a week after the letter came to light, State Police Cpl. Joseph Comer was charged with felony strangulation and misdemeanor domestic battery.

Comer’s attorney told Johnson in late February that he believes the agency thinks Comer is the author of the anonymous letter and that’s the reason for his arrest.

“So you believe that these charges were in direct retaliation for the believed role they thought he had in writing the letter?” Johnson asked defense attorney David Moye.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “I believe that. I think it’s very evident that, that’s what happened.”

The two incidents allegedly happened in December, but warrants were not filed for Comer’s arrest until Feb. 23.

“Why did it take until Feb 23, more than two months later, to file charges?” Johnson asked Cahill.

“I really can’t speak to that,” he replied. “Again, I’m not a case agent on that.”

“When something hits the fan this big, the principal gets involved and the principal knows what happened,” Johnson said to Cahill. “Are you telling me you don’t know when she reported the violence?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m telling you, absolutely,” he replied.

Johnson also brought Cahill a concern from the trooper who was assigned to serve a domestic violence petition to Comer, that trooper claiming he wasn’t given new information about a threat putting him at risk.

“I’m not throwing him under the bus,” Cahill said of the trooper. “I would say he probably is ranting about something that he doesn’t have a lot of the details and information, and he voiced his displeasure thinking, ‘Ah, couldn’t this have been handled the next day.’ I think that’s what was brought to my attention.”

Johnson also presented Cahill a separate, anonymous letter that WSAZ received in February regarding an incident at a casino. It claims a high-ranking member of the agency stole cash from a man at a casino in Cross Lanes.

The letter goes on to state, the case was never presented to the prosecutor, no criminal charges were filed and there was no internal investigation. It also states the agency allowed the person to retire.

“The day I was made aware of that, I think he turned in and became a retired member the following day,” Cahill said.

“Was his retirement, was his separation from the department in any connected to what you learned?” Johnson asked.

“I’d probably rather not talk about that, because it goes back again to a protected statement,” Cahill replied.

The colonel also had strong words about the investigation into the allegations, an inquiry ordered by Gov. Jim Justice and carried out by the state’s Department of Homeland Security.

“This is nothing against the governor, but the Homeland Security investigation, I have a zero vote of confidence in that investigation or Secretary (Jeff) Sandy for that matter. I think there’s just an agenda that’s been going on against the State Police.”

WSAZ NewsChannel 3 reached out to the Governor’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security for a response to Cahill’s comments, but the station was told those entities had no comment at this time.

The initial letter also claims luxury items were purchased for rooms that house senior staff at the State Police Academy.

Cahill says that’s not true, even taking Johnson into the building showing us his room at the academy to give WSAZ an idea of what you would find in those rooms.

For additional previous coverage:

Wrongdoing allegations raised against West Virginia State Police