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Tri-county mutual aid plan applauded by sheriffs

March 13, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The first-ever mutual aid agreement between the sheriff's departments in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties was established Tuesday, allowing the departments to combine forces and resources.

About 50 members of the sheriff's departments of the three West Virginia counties were sworn in as "special deputies," a title that allows a deputy to cross county lines during special situations.

The event took place at the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department in Martinsburg.

"We will be able to draw from one another and work together to add to the few numbers in each department. We will be as one unit. It's pretty awesome," Jefferson County Sheriff Ed Boober said.

He said the mutual aid agreement will allow the departments to share resources in criminal investigations and through intelligence operations.

There are limits on the activities a special deputy can conduct in another county.

"We can only use the power under emergency situations. It is not to be used for routine police work," Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith said.

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A special deputy can enter another county if in pursuit of a suspect or to investigate a crime that extends into another county, Smith said.

Before the mutual aid agreement, deputies from one county who needed to investigate a crime in another had to be assisted by that county's department.

Now deputies from a department can investigate on their own as long as their presence is known to the home county's department, Smith said.

Also, when a large event is being held in a county, the sheriff's departments from the other two counties can send assistance, increasing the number of law enforcement officers monitoring the security of the event, Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Jessie Jones said.

"Morgan County is a small department and with the way manpower is, we can all now get together through this mutual aid and help each county," Morgan County Sheriff Ronald McIntire said.

The deputies will have special deputy status for the length of the current sheriffs' terms. The sheriffs in each county took office in January 2001 and will hold the positions for four years.

Boober said the idea to have a tri-county mutual aid agreement materialized in January during the monthly Sheriff's Association meeting in Charleston, W.Va.

"We are all brand-new sheriffs, and we decided we needed to help each other out. Historically ... the sheriffs have been territorial. We are all open-minded about the job we need to do," Boober said.

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