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Six bailiffs will staff new judicial complex

July 14, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission decided Thursday to staff the judicial center complex expected to open in October with six sheriff's deputy bailiffs, but the number of court security officers needed there might not be clear for some time.

Charged by statute with providing court security, Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith estimated Thursday that as many as 30 security officers and bailiffs combined could provide adequate security. The county employs 17 officers and only one bailiff.

But until the center off West South and Stephen streets is occupied, Smith said he cannot be certain what the ideal staffing number will be. He doubted it would require a previous recommendation of 41.

Commissioner Ronald K. Collins appeared to agree with Smith that the final staffing number was unclear after he and fellow commissioners Howard L. Strauss and Steven C. Teufel voted to pay for the additional deputy bailiffs with money earmarked in the 2005-06 fiscal budget, but not spent.

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"We're probably going to have to make adjustments when we open," Collins said of the staffing issue.

Two of the six new deputy bailiffs will be assigned to provide security for Circuit Judges Gray Silver III and David H. Sanders, as required by state law. Deputy Sam Talley is assigned to Judge Christopher C. Wilkes' court. Security officers now provide security detail for Silver and Sanders.

Acting on recommendations of Smith and members of a policies and procedures committee formed to guide the judicial center project, the commission decided to assign a deputy bailiff to the building's first-floor control room, where those accused of crimes are held before appearing in court.

Another deputy will provide security for family court hearings and the main entrance, and a fifth will be a "floater" to provide coverage where needed, in case of sickness, holiday or vacation leave, County Administrator Deborah E. Hammond said. Hammond was unable to immediately provide an estimated expense for the six new hires.

Smith has assigned a deputy to head up security at the new complex, formerly the Berkeley Building of the Blue Ridge Outlets center, off West Stephen and South and Raleigh streets.

The additional deputies increase the number working in Smith's office from 44 to 50, but does little to satisfy the sheriff's desire for more patrol officers.

County leaders have delayed increasing staffing levels until a study is completed later this year or early 2007. Collins said Thursday he is meeting with Smith on July 25 to further discuss the issue.

"I requested five additional deputies in my budget just for the road," Smith said. "As long as they give me the manpower to do my job, the job will get done."

County Human Resources Director Alan Davis told the commission Thursday that Smith's department should be fully staffed with 44 patrol deputies by the end of July. Eight candidates for five openings passed background checks, Davis said.

The commission on Thursday also agreed to rehire Phillip Butcher as a law enforcement deputy sheriff. Butcher left the department in September for a job with Norfolk Southern Railway.

Advertisements for the judicial center deputy bailiffs will be placed in the coming days, Hammond said.

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