Town of Pound votes to fire every police officer, including chief

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 2:26 PM EDT
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POUND, Va. (WJHL) - The Town of Pound removed its chief of police and terminated all other police officers.

According to a petition filed by Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp, town officials formally voted on May 18 to terminate “every officer in its police department.

The petition states that while the town’s charter grants the town council the power to appoint a new chief of police, they have not yet done so.

“Nonetheless, the Pound Police Department maintains a locked room securing evidence of criminal violations,” the petition states. Evidence stored within the Police Department evidence room is necessary for the prosecution of criminal offenses currently pending in this Court.”

The town has demanded the former police chief provide the keys and access to the evidence room by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19.

However, the petition states that it is not clear who is to receive access to the evidence storage room.

Slemp writes in the petition that fired chiefs of police are required by law to give their records to their successors. Virginia law also demands that control of evidence remain in the hands of law enforcement.

“The Town of Pound established a police department and therefore vested in it the powers and responsibilities of a law enforcement agency,” the petition reads. “As such, it must employ qualified personnel who are legally allowed to maintain and access the records of the Town’s law enforcement agency and any evidence.”

The petition states that the Commonwealth of Virginia would find it unlawful for a non-law enforcement individual to be given the keys to the evidence room and be provided access to the evidence within. To do so would result in an “illegal break in the chain of custody and obstruct justice in a manner possibly punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor.”

A notice of hearing states that Slemp will appear Wise County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. Wednesday to address the petition.

In a statement provided to our media partner, WJHL, Slemp said he does not dispute the town’s authority to remove its police chief and officers and does not take any position on the decision.

“Today, I filed a writ of mandamus and prohibition against the Town of Pound, Virginia in response to the town council’s decision last night to abruptly terminate its police department. I respect the sovereign decisions of the town council and do not take any position on the question of whether the police department should be eliminated. That is a decision for the locally elected officials. However, the Town of Pound when it established a police department vested that police agency with the powers and responsibilities of a law enforcement agency under Virginia law. As such, it must employ personnel who are legally required to maintain the records of the Town’s law enforcement agency and any evidence held by that agency. The law of Virginia is clear: while the Town may eliminate it’s police department, it must put in place reasonable measures to ensure a proper transition occurs when that law enforcement body is no longer in existence. It is unfortunate that this step has to be taken, but it is necessary because the town council took action without putting in place a plan to preserve evidence as required by Virginia law and maintain public safety for their citizens.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp

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