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Cop transfer idea doesn't fly with sheriff, lawmaker

May 09, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Steve Teufel has an idea that he believes would solve two problems at once - the shortage of state troopers in Berkeley County and the low salaries county deputies are paid.

Teufel, a Berkeley County Commission member, suggested that 10 or so deputies be transferred to the state police.

By turning deputies into state troopers, Teufel said the sheriff's department would have more money to give its remaining deputies the raises they've requested. And more troopers would be patrolling the roads.

The idea is easier said than done. Although some may not realize the differences between the state police and sheriff's department - they are both police agencies, after all - many do exist.

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Among the differences: Deputies answer to county officials and their salaries are paid by county taxpayers. State troopers answer to state officials and are paid with state money.

State troopers have jurisdiction in all of West Virginia, while deputies are mostly confined to the county in which they work.

Teufel made his suggestion to Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith during Thursday's County Commission meeting.

Smith listened to Teufel, but said he doesn't know how well the idea would work. If anything, he said, the state should be giving county officials money to hire more deputies, since few people seem to want to become state troopers.

For a deputy to move to the state police, he or she would have to give up rank and start all over, Smith said.

As far as law enforcement, deputies do the same thing as state troopers, according to Smith. They investigate robberies, burglaries, sexual assaults, drunken drivers, car wrecks and homicides, among other crimes. Deputies also must provide security at courthouses, transport prisoners and mental patients, conduct mental hearings and serve civil paperwork.

Transferring 10 deputies to the state police - even if it were permitted under state code - would not accomplish anything, Smith said.

"We'd be right back where we started," Smith said after the meeting.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said legislators informally discussed an idea of allowing deputies and city police officers to take an abbreviated session of the state police academy and become troopers. The idea was nixed because legislators did not want the state police to "raid" local departments.

Doyle agreed that more state troopers are needed in the Eastern Panhandle, but said transferring deputies is not a feasible solution.

"It just would not work," he said. "The only way to fill the shortage is for the state to come up with enough money."

Throughout West Virginia, more than 100 troopers are needed to get back to a full-strength force of around 700, Doyle said.

Two academy classes of 35 troopers are under way and the legislature authorized another class to begin next year, Doyle said.

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