UPDATE: Chief Martin Is Staying Positive

By: Mollie Lair, Shannon Houser Email
By: Mollie Lair, Shannon Houser Email

UPDATE: 11/08/11 4:06PM

Parkersburg Police Sergeant J.A. Vensel has been accused of misdemeanor battery charges after an alleged incident at the Wood County Holding Center, and that's just the most recent incident involving officers with the Parkersburg Police Department. But Chief Joe Martin is staying positive, and moving forward.

"Se still have several, several officers that are above board and professional they will do what's right. It's unfortunate that we have to deal with this kind of a thing for the good men of the department but we'll overcome it, and work through this, Chief Martin said.

Chief Martin adds it's common and necessary for external investigations in situations like this one.

"Its embarrassing to say the least. I think public perception. It's probably a good thing. It's unfortunate for the member, but it's a necessary thing. It's a check and a balance kind of a thing for all of us."

The FBI wasn't called in to investigate the entire department, just two specific incidents, including the one involving Sergeant Vensel.

"They're not investigating the department they're just investigating a couple of isolated cases of force by the officers."

"We'll do some internal changes as far as the way we book our prisoners. As far as location, we'll now process them here at the city building."

In addition to the FBI investigation, the WV State Police will conduct it's own investigation, as well as the Parkersburg Police Department. The city police department will make a decision by the end of the week regarding the employment of Sergeant Vensel who's currently on paid administrative leave.

"It is what it is kind of a deal. The video speaks for itself. "

Chief Martin says the department will install cameras in the new area where criminals will be processed.
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After the most recent alleged civil rights violation by a Parkersburg police officer, Mayor Newell asked the FBI to conduct their own investigation into these counts.

"Actually we've asked the FBI to come in and review our investigations," says Mayor Bob Newell. "Basically so that the people know that it's very transparent and that it's not a local investigation. I think people feel better when they know an independent agency is looking at it."

He says this is standard procedure in order to insure the investigation is fair and unbiased. The city has settled three lawsuits alleging police abuse just this year.

The first instance dates back to 2008 when Mayor Newell says there was a breakdown in supervision at the department.

"You know Chief Martin came in and corrected that and this latest thing was just an isolated incident but they will all be treated equally and they will certainly all be treated seriously," says Mayor Newell. "Again that's why we've asked the FBI to come in and monitor the investigations and conduct their own independent investigation."

That case ended in a $70,000 settlement in favor of the prosecution.
The most recent civil rights violation involves Sergeant Josh Vensel allegedly attacking Jerry Seabolt while he was in police custody at the holding center.

Vensel was indicted on misdemeanor battery charges and is set to appear in court on November 9th.
But federal charges may be brought depending on the results of the FBI investigation.

"Civil rights violations can be prosecuted either on the state level or on the federal level," says Mayor Newell. "Quite frankly they can be prosecuted on both levels simultaneously so they will also look and see if there is some federal jurisdiction on these incidents and they have the opportunity to prosecute on the federal level as well."

Three police officers are currently on paid leave and considered for termination. The FBI will be investigating two cases involving alleged police brutality.


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