Chief Meets Black Caucus

WHEELING – Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said he will make his department aware of information he learned Wednesday during a private meeting with members of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus.

Schwertfeger met with caucus President Delores Wiggins and others for more than an hour to address complaints and allegations Wheeling residents voiced to caucus members last week.

About 50 people gathered at that meeting at the Doc Horton Center in East Wheeling to tell of the injustices they believe police officers and other law enforcement officials have committed.

Following Wednesday’s meeting, which Schwertfeger called “cordial” and “productive,” the chief said there may be cultural differences between officers and some city residents, but allegations of police corruption are unfounded.

One point of discussion was abusive language that residents say officers use. Schwertfeger said the alleged language does not include racial slurs, but it is speech that he believes could be deemed offensive by minorities.

Caucus members also shared Queenie Waitts’ account of her son’s arrest. Queenie Waitts told Wiggins that officers shoved her aside to enter her home and arrest her son, Duncan Waitts, for public intoxication, then charged her with obstruction.

Schwertfeger said officers were justified in arresting Duncan Waitts that night.

Wiggins and her colleagues also told the chief about the actions of officers who residents believe are overzealous.

Nothing discussed Wednesday rose to the level of police misconduct, Schwertfeger said, but he is passing the conversation along to his officers regardless.

“I will be sharing the content of our meeting with the entire department,” Schwertfeger said, “as well as what I deem to be acceptable behavior and what I don’t.”

He also pointed to the department’s Office of Professional Standards, which he established shortly after taking over, and encouraged anyone with a complaint to voice it there.

“I think the Black Caucus trusts my handling in making sure things are done the right way,” he said. “And most importantly, they know they can reach out to me, as can any citizen in Wheeling.”

Wiggins could not be reached for comment.