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‘Cockroach’ memo prompts legal review; Cross resigns from position with Elkins police department

By TIM MACVEAN

The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS, W.Va.  — Former Elkins Police Chief Craig Cross likened alleged drug dealers and buyers to insects, and said police officers should make the town’s residents “respect us or fear us,” in a memorandum he dispersed to officers within the Elkins Police Department.

On Tuesday, Elkins Mayor Van Broughton confirmed Cross had tendered his resignation, effective Monday, as first sergeant of the department after the discovery of the memorandum suggesting officers use force against “cockroaches” in the community.

City officials said Tuesday they turned the memorandum over to Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker when they learned of its existence. It is not clear when Cross circulated the memorandum.

“The Watson cockroach house on Kerens Ave (sic) needs dealt with. I’m tired of hearing about cockroaches coming out of the house, going to the house or just being associated with that house operating with impunity,” the memo says in part.

Cross resigned from the chief position in mid-January but stayed on the force in the first sergeant role. J.C. Raffety was sworn in as the department’s interim police chief on Jan. 24. It is unclear if Cross’ resignation as chief was due to the memorandum, which goes on to instruct officers to harass potential suspects.

“Walking around with big a– knives strapped to their hip! If you see any suspected cockroach walking around OUR town with a big a– knife or backpack or hoodie on with the hood up I want them stopped and identified, you know what I want them harassed if you know they are a cockroach,” the memorandum reads.

At the conclusion of the memorandum, which bears his signature at the bottom, Cross said he would deal with any complaints that might arise from harassment.

“I’ll deal with the complaints! In between calls and paperwork I want you to be laying on the Watson cockroach house and the Hartley cockroach house on Central St! (sic) I want people stopped and checked out! PUT THE FEAR BACK INTO THESE COCKROACHES! Stomp cockroach a– if needed!

“YOUR (sic) COPS AND AS LONG AS YOU WEAR THAT PATCH ON YOUR SHOULDER THIS IS YOUR TOWN! WE WILL EITHER MAKE PEOPLE RESPECT US OR FEAR US, PREFERRABLY BOTH!!!!” the memorandum concludes.

In a Tuesday press release given to The Inter-Mountain by Broughton, Elkins city officials said the memorandum was handed over to Parker immediately upon its discovery.

“Recently city officials became aware of the existence of a memorandum believed to be initiated from within the Elkins Police Department. Once it was confirmed the memorandum was in fact authored by former Elkins Police Chief C.D. Cross, and recognizing their legal obligations, the city took immediate action to inform the Randolph County Prosecutor’s Office of the memorandum and its potential impact on pending cases investigated by the Elkins Police Department,” the release states.

Parker, in turn, disclosed copies of the memorandum to all defense attorneys who are representing clients recently arrested by the EPD.

“I have disclosed a copy of the memorandum to all attorneys who have been identified as representing defendants charged with criminal offenses investigated by the Elkins Police Department, which is required of me by well-settled law,” Parker wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Additionally, I have a duty to uphold both the United States Constitution and the West Virginia Constitution, which I take very seriously. The failure to disclose this memorandum would not have been consistent with that duty.”

Parker received a copy of the memorandum in late January, and said he “cannot condone” its contents.

“On January 31, 2017, the Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office obtained a copy of a memorandum apparently drafted by former Elkins Police Chief, C. D. Cross to officers of the Elkins Police Department,” Parker wrote. “I cannot condone, in any way, the content of the memorandum. I recognize that our law enforcement officers have an extremely difficult and dangerous job, which has only gotten more difficult and dangerous as of late.

“It is of paramount importance, however, that our law enforcement officers do their jobs such that each and every citizen’s constitutional rights are protected,”he continued. “Perhaps the sentiments contained in the memorandum are borne out of frustration in attempting to deal with an overwhelming substance abuse epidemic that has resulted in increased crime and has taxed our law enforcement community to its limits. Regardless, we cannot allow frustration to result in ignoring the requirements of the constitution.”

City officials added they do not feel this memorandum reflects the views of the entire police department.

“Although there are those that might believe that the city and Mr. Parker should not have disclosed this memorandum, they had no choice but to uphold the United States Constitution and West Virginia Constitution. The rule of law is what makes our country strong and free,” the press release from Elkins city officials states.

“As always, the Elkins Police Department, under the leadership of interim Chief J.C. Raffety, city officers and all city officials will cooperate with the office of the prosecuting attorney,” the release continued. “This memorandum does not reflect the conduct of the Elkins Police Department. Our officers have exemplified professional and effective law enforcement over the years and we are proud of the work they do. The Elkins Police Department has the complete support of the mayor and council.”

Parker echoed those sentiments, applauding the dedication and professionalism of law enforcement officers.

“I am appreciative of the cooperation my office has received from the City of Elkins and the Elkins Police Department in addressing this issue. This type of situation has been quite rare in the five years I have served as prosecuting attorney, as we are truly blessed in Randolph County to have extremely dedicated and professional law enforcement officers,” Parker wrote. “I have the utmost confidence that Chief Raffety, with the support of his officers and city officials, will work diligently to ensure that everyone is operating within the confines of the constitution.”

In a state’s discovery response, filed within a case that led to a felony arrest by the Elkins Police Department, Parker notes that, although he believes the memorandum may not be relevant to any particular case, he is attaching it to all cases investigated by the department.

“Attached hereto is a memorandum drafted by former Elkins Police Chief, C.D. Cross,” the state’s motion says. “Although the state does not concede that the attached memorandum is relevant to the above-styled case, the state is disclosing said memorandum out of an abundance of caution such that the defense may review it and determine whether they believe it to be favorable and/or relevant to the case.”

This is not the first instance in which Cross has shown frustration while serving as chief of police. In September 2015, he took to Facebook, posting about what he felt was a shortage of funds for the department.

“These issues have held back Elkins P.D. for many many years and the fact of the matter is our issues can only be solved with money and people are going to have to ante up and fight for us or nothing will change,” Cross wrote in the Facebook post, dated 10:10 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2015. “I do not care who I make mad by saying these things and I pray that it will finally make people fight and sacrifice for us as we have done for you.”

Cross was named police chief on April 7, 2015, after the retirement of S.D. Richards. At the time of his appointment as chief, he was serving as a sergeant for the department. He had been an officer with the EPD for nearly 10 years at the time of his resignation.

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