Training while on call doesn't affect regular duties, says W.Va. department

"Being a small department, we want to keep our officers on the road [patrolling] as much as possible."

By Kathy Plum
The Dominion Post
KINGWOOD, W.Va. — Area police agencies say they train officers whenever and wherever they can, while still trying to provide adequate coverage.

During the Ronald Schleger trial last month, defense attorney James Zimarowski noted several times that all Preston deputies who were in the county -- two were in South Carolina attending training on fingerprinting -- attended a two-day training session at Camp Dawson.

During his testimony, Preston Sheriff's Lt. Joe Stiles said he considers himself and all officers always on call, though they may not be on road patrol at the time.

"And the State Police were available" while deputies trained, Preston Sheriff Ron Crites said recently. "They talk with us if they're short handed ....

"It just so happened that Deputy [1st Class J.H.] Bryan was closer."

Chief Deputy Jeff Roberson, himself and Stiles were available for calls the night of the shooting, Crites said, and other officers were on call.

Bryan was off duty when he responded to the call at the Douglas Livengood residence where the shooting occurred. Schleger was found innocent of murder and attempted murder during the trial.

Training is required for all law enforcement officers in West Virginia. All officers below the rank of sergeant are required to attend 16 hours of in-service training each year. Sergeants and higher-ranking officers must complete 16 hours, plus supervisory training every two years. Weapons qualifications are required twice a year.

"This was a special training," Crites said of the two days his officers spent at Camp Dawson. "We had just purchased digital cameras for the cruisers to take crime-scene photos."

The training was only available in a two-day block, Crites said.

"Typically, we try to do half" the officers each day, he said. "This was an instance where we didn't have that option. In order to receive the credits, people had to attend the two-day training."

Other police officers from as far as Charleston also came to attend the training, Crites said. Other area police agencies indicated their training is similar to Preston's -- sometimes asking the whole department to participate, with some on call, and sometimes sending only a few officers.

Taylor County Chief Deputy Terring Skinner, next door to Preston, said his department has seven sworn officers, including the sheriff and a secretary who works with women and girls who are arrested, if needed.

Taylor County also has three full-time and one part-time court services personnel, who handle bailiff duties and jail transports. Taylor County's prosecutor has an investigator who serves at his will and pleasure, who is not a sworn officer but assists the department.

"We pick up training wherever we can," Skinner said. "We will travel wherever we have to."

That can range from taking advantage of training offered by the state police or another police department to sending drug enforcement officers to Ohio.

"Being a small department, we want to keep our officers on the road [patrolling] as much as possible," Skinner said.

Skinner said all officers might be sent to training on the same day, "When we get the opportunity to do this locally, yes, because we're still in the county." His department would never send all deputies out of county at the same time for training, Skinner said.

And while all officers are sometimes sent to train at the same time, some of those in training will be on duty and can be called out, Skinner said, and that the department will continue its 24/7 coverage.

Taylor County also has the Grafton Police force, with seven officers including the chief, and three state police troopers. They all work together closely, Skinner said.

West Virginia state police do a three-day annual in-service training at the State Police Academy. Company and detachment commanders schedule their troopers for the training.

"They really spread it out according to how many people are in the detachment," said Sgt. Gary Powers, media spokesman for the state police.

In October, troopers also do biannual firearms qualifications and physical agility tests. These are done at locations around the state.

"That keeps us from having to bring everybody back to Charleston," Powers said.

State police cover the whole state. County sheriff's departments are more limited in scope and in personnel.

Copyright 2007 The Dominion Post

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