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Berkeley sheriff complains department is breaking law

September 02, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission's failure to fund a computerized crime reporting system has put the Sheriff's Department in violation of state law for the past nine months, Sheriff Ron Jones said at a Thursday County Commission meeting.

"I'm the sheriff of the county in charge of enforcing the law and I'm being forced to break the law. That's sad," Jones said.

The commissioners said they were unaware of the problem and promised to take care of it next week.

The county was supposed to have in place by Jan. 1 a new records management system that would have allowed the Sheriff's Department to file state-mandated crime statistics, Jones said.

The crime statistics are compiled by the West Virginia State Police and are required by the federal government for the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, Jones said.

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Budget requests of $25,000 for the computer system have gone unfunded by the commission for three years, Jones said.

As a result, Jones said the Sheriff's Department is breaking a state law that could get him 60 days behind bars in a county jail.

The misdemeanor crime is also punishable by a $200 fine and could result in his removal as sheriff, Jones said.

"I'm not going to jail because you haven't funded this," Jones told the commission Thursday.

But the system can't be put in place until county 911 Director Mary Kackley makes final decisions on a new computer-aided dispatch system that will tie in with the Sheriff's Department software, Jones said. The two systems have to be compatible.

"This is a case of one body waiting on another for information," Commissioner Robert Burkhart said.

Without a clear request on the system that needs to be purchased, the commission can't allocate the money, Burkhart said.

The commissioners scheduled a meeting with Kackley and the Sheriff's Department for Sept. 9 to determine what needs to be done.

Burkhart suggested Jones' concerns about breaking the law "be taken with a grain of salt" and said Berkeley County is probably not the only West Virginia county that doesn't have the crime-reporting software.

Sheriff's departments in Morgan and Jefferson counties already have the software, leaving Berkeley as one of a few counties that are breaking the law, Jones said.

West Virginia State Police headquarters in Charleston, W.Va., has been patient with the delay, Jones said.

How long that patience will last is what concerns Jones.

"They've been reasonable, but that's been worn to a thread," he said.

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