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Panel denies request to name new public safety building after fallen deputy

Law Enforcement Building Committee could not recommend the building be named in honor of Deputy John L. Burkett III

April 05, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Sheriffs Association’s request that the county’s new public safety building be named in honor of the only deputy to be killed in the line of duty has been denied.

In a March 30 letter to association President Scott Myers, Deputy County Administrator Alan J. Davis said the county’s Law Enforcement Building Committee could not recommend the building at 510 S. Raleigh St. be named in honor of Deputy John L. Burkett III.

Burkett, 28, died Jan. 31, 2001, in a head-on crash while transporting a fugitive from Pennsylvania to Berkeley County.

Myers, who presented the request to honor Burkett to the Berkeley County Council in October 2011, said Thursday that the association was “extremely displeased” with the committee’s decision.

The council had referred the request to the committee, which was formed to oversee the renovation of the former Martin’s Food Market for the new sheriff’s department headquarters.

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“The association would like to have our proposal presented to the Berkeley County Council for a vote by our elected council members,” Myers said Thursday in a statement.

Myers said the association had asked to discuss its proposal with the committee, but never received a response or invitation to the meeting. The group also said it wants to know who the committee members are and who voted on the request, if a vote was taken.

The association in October had noted other law-enforcement buildings, including one in nearby Winchester, Va., have been named for fallen officers who were killed in the line of duty.

In the letter, Davis said the committee agreed that Burkett should be memorialized in an “appropriate manner,” but “we cannot recommend to the County Council that the law enforcement building, or any building for that matter, be named after a specific person. We are, therefore denying your request.”

Davis noted that the committee is working with the project architect to design an area in the foyer of the new public safety building “to acknowledge the contributions of all law enforcement officers,” and Burkett would be memorialized in that area.

Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster, who serves on the committee with county Councilmen Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr. and Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci, said he believes the panel reached a consensus on the issue.

Lemaster said he supports the concept of naming a memorial plaza in Burkett’s honor that would recognize all police officers who have served the community, not just deputies.

Lemaster also said he agrees that no county building should be named after a specific person because it can cause confusion among the public and doesn’t allow for others to be equally recognized for their service.

While no other Berkeley County deputy has been killed in the line of duty, Lemaster noted a need to recognize former Deputy Todd May, who was killed in the line of duty in February while employed by the Monongalia Sheriff’s Office. 

Lemaster said the county’s administration building, commonly known as the Dunn Building, already creates confusion among residents who are not familiar with the historic renovated mill building’s ties to the Dunn name.

Petrucci said Thursday night that the public safety building would be called the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department.

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