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Sheriff asks for $2,400 to replace firearms given to retired deputies

April 09, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Kenneth M. "Kenny" Lemaster
File photo,

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr. said he carries the gun he was awarded upon his retirement as chief deputy so he can have a spare firearm for his department.

The lack of backup firepower for the sheriff's department publicly surfaced this week when the sheriff approached the Berkeley County Commission about a $2,400 request to replace three firearms that have been awarded to deputies upon their retirement in the last few years.

Deputies who retire from a county sheriff's department in West Virginia are to be presented with their service pistol, but county commissions must authorize the award, according to state code. The code does not specify who shoulders the cost.

Lemaster's request was initially questioned by Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield in the Commission's April 1 meeting. On Thursday, Stubblefield suggested the expense be split between the Commission and the Sheriff after initially questioning Lemaster why it shouldn't entirely be paid for with funds from the sheriff's budget.

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Lemaster said the Commission's presentation of a service pistol to a retiring deputy shows the public that the county's top law enforcement officer is not giving away county property, which he added would look bad.

Commissioner Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci on Thursday was critical of the discussion altogether, saying it was an honor for commissioners to present a deputy with their service pistol.

"I think it's ludicrous that we have to sit here and talk about $2,400 that we do not or will not want to give to the Sheriff's Department upon these people retiring," Petrucci said.

"We spend $6,000 a year on (bottled) water and we can't do this?" said Petrucci, who previously questioned the expense in Thursday's meeting. "That's all I've got to say."

Lemaster said the department's firearms were originally purchased with a grant, but recalled that the department rarely has been staffed at full strength. Including Lemaster, there are currently 54 sworn officers in the department.

There are three vacancies, aside from the chief deputy position that Lemaster has left unfilled since he took office Jan. 1, 2009.

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