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Sheriff's deputies in Berkeley County honored by commission

February 04, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - On a file cabinet in Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith's office is a bumper sticker that reads, to paraphrase: They do for free what others won't do for pay.

"They" are the 27 men and women who make up the Berkeley County Sheriff's Reserves - volunteers who handle traffic control; patrol businesses, neighborhoods and courthouses at night; help out at fire scenes; and do dozens of other tasks that sometimes go unnoticed.

Taking notice had taken long enough for members of the Berkeley County Commission, who read aloud a proclamation at their meeting Thursday night thanking the volunteers. It was the first time the County Commission has publicly recognized the volunteers' efforts, the group's chief said.

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About 20 reserve deputies gathered in the commissioners' meeting room for the event.

"They're always there when you need them," Berkeley County Commissioner Ron Collins said, addressing the group. "You have all my respect."

Commissioner Howard Strauss said the reserve deputies have saved the county thousands of dollars in what would have been paid to deputies as overtime. Last year they put in 7,000 volunteer hours, Smith said.

Commissioner Steve Teufel said the county cannot afford to pay the reserves, but can afford to take the time to acknowledge their commitment.

Reserve deputies also help out at high school sporting events and during annual events such as the Berkeley County Youth Fair. They have 14 cars, a generator truck, a Chevrolet Blazer and a pickup truck - all obtained by the sheriff at no cost to taxpayers.

A horse team helps during search and rescue operations, while two rescue boats aid during river-related problems.

The reserves force was formed in 1971. Volunteers do not carry any weapon stronger than pepper spray and do not have arrest powers.

Bob Masters, who joined the reserves in 1974, is now the group's chief. His wife, Linda Masters, who also is a reserve deputy, said her husband once extinguished a fire in a burning car in which a teenager was trapped.

"As a mom, I'm glad somebody was out there helping," she said.

Even if the phone rings at 2 a.m., it's answered, they said.

Bob Masters has used four-wheel drive vehicles to take doctors and nurses to work, and spent three days years ago at the scene of a massive hotel fire in Berkeley Springs.

He once spotted a car on the side of Edwin Miller Boulevard and pulled over to see if the driver needed help. Behind the wheel was a pregnant woman trying to drive herself to the hospital.

"I asked her not to have it until we got there," Masters recalled with a laugh. She obliged.

Masters said he hopes others will volunteer, especially younger men and women. Some current deputies started as reserves, a volunteer opportunity that enabled them to determine whether police work was the right career for them, he said.

Most of the reserve deputies, though, do the job because they love it.

"I do it because I enjoy helping the public," said Masters, who had only compliments for the sheriff and the current reserve deputies.

"You don't find (many) people today who will work for nothing" he said.

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