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Advisory board to be formed in Berkeley County

March 07, 2001

Advisory board to be formed in Berkeley County



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County residents soon will be able to sound off about the county sheriff's department's operations to a new community advisory board, according to Sheriff Randy Smith.

Smith told the Berkeley County Commission last week he plans to establish a community relations and advisory board to solicit feedback from the community. He proposed the advisory board should have no more than 16 members, and meet four times a year and whenever specific issues arise that need review. The advisory board would wield no legal authority.

"It's something I talked about during the (2000) election," Smith said Thursday. "It could be for anything - traffic situations or traffic flows in a particular area, why or how we patrol certain areas, things like that."

Smith denied his plan for the advisory board was a response to the indictments of three sheriff's deputies charged with the January 2000 beating of a Hedgesville, W.Va. He did say, however, that such issues would be appropriate for the board's review.

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"It's not being set up for police abuse or allegations of police abuse or anything like that," Smith said. "It's just part of an effort to do more community policing. We want (input from) people who can help us become better police officers."

Smith said he will recommend individuals for the board to the commission. He proposes that the board consist of 10-12 members.

Smith hopes the board will represent a broad cross section of the community and include people in the legal profession, as well as medical, business, media and other professions. Commissioner John Wright suggested that former county commissioners or former sheriffs might be included on the board.

The commission endorsed the idea, but said it should have the final say about who serves on the board.

"I think it's an excellent idea," Commission President Howard Strauss told Smith. "We need more community input. But if it's your advisory board, it might look like the fox is guarding the hen house."

The commission also suggested that if a future sheriff didn't like the idea, he or she would have to persuade the commission to disband it.

"If there are problems in the future, it will not look like the sheriff has made all the appointments," Strauss said.

Smith said the board should be ready to operate within two months.

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