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Gov. rides shotgun with W.Va. troopers

January 11, 2002

Gov. rides shotgun with W.Va. troopers



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Gov. Bob Wise departed from protocol Thursday night to ride shotgun on the night shift with West Virginia State trooper R.T. Dyroff.

As of 6:20 p.m. Dyroff, who is stationed at the Martinsburg State Police barracks, and the governor had been on patrol for a little more than an hour and had already responded to two domestic complaints, Wise said.

This is the second time the governor has ridden in cruisers with troopers. He said he's doing it to bring awareness to his request to the State Legislature for $3.1 million to beef up the number of troopers in West Virginia. The state is short nearly 100 troopers from the 710 troopers it's supposed to have, he said.

Last week Wise rode in a cruiser in Raleigh County.

"It was a quiet night there. I have a sense that it won't be as quiet here. There's more activity here," he said during a break in his "shift." He expected to stay with Dyroff through the end of his shift at midnight, he said.

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Wise said West Virginia "is desperately short of troopers, especially in the Eastern Panhandle. Raleigh County is small and there are 12 troopers there. There are only 14 in Berkeley County," he said.

Sgt. George Bradshaw, barracks commander in Berkeley County, said his detachment is down by six troopers. Jefferson County is short by four, he said.

West Virginia is not competitive in salaries or benefits for troopers compared to surrounding states, Wise said.

A starting trooper in West Virginia makes less than $30,000 a year. It's nearly $40,000 in Pennsylvania, a state trooper in Chambersburg Pa., said Thursday.

After five years on the job a West Virginia trooper makes $33,700. His counterpart in Pennsylvania earns $50,000 after five years, Wise said.

West Virginia is also behind Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia, he said.

In 1994 the benefits package for state troopers was cut, he said.

West Virginia's trooper training program is recognized as one of the best in the nation, he said. As a result, other states recruit Mountain State troopers.

"They're an attractive target," Wise said.

Wise said he wants to start a new class at the State Police Academy in South Charleston immediately followed by a second class a month later.

He said he is riding with troopers to get a first-hand look at what their real needs are.

Wise, interviewed by phone in Dyroff's cruiser, said he stands aside on calls and traffic stops.

"I stand behind the car and I don't talk to suspects or drivers. I'm not trained. I leave that up to those who are," he said.

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