Sheriff’s Office Recaps Busy 2015
By LAUREN MATTHEWS
The Wetzel County Sheriff’s Department had a busy 2015, according to Chief Deputy Mike Koontz.
Koontz spoke to the Wetzel County Commission at the commission’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19
Koontz said deputies issued 455 citations in 2015, which was a decrease compared to 2014 but “still quite a few.”
Furthermore, the department had 74 arrests in 2015, 18 of which were DUI arrests.
“We had 28 drug arrests,” Koontz noted. “A lot of those were felony arrests.”
Koontz explained that two of the drug arrests were conducted by Deputy Rob Hayes, Deputy Justin Bickerstaff, and himself (Koontz).
“Those two arrests were within 1000 feet of Valley High School. One was for possession with intent to deliver and one was for delivery of a controlled substance,” he explained, adding that the arrests took place during after-school hours.
Koontz said that between the two arrests and another arrest initiated by Deputy Roger Spragg, the sheriff’s department seized approximately $11,000 in cash assets.
“The seized money that we took can only be used for investigative equipment or drug investigation purposes. The funds are still in an account, and we are trying to decide how we want to use it,” Koontz explained.
Koontz said the sheriff’s department also disposed of 3,600 illegally purchased firearms.
“When I say “illegally purchased,” it can be different things,” Koontz explained.
“It can be weapons that we seized from someone who then became a felon and couldn’t have them back. It could be from a mentally incompetent individual who was found to be in possession of firearms. It could be someone with a domestic violence charge,” he further explained.
Last year, the sheriff’s department served 734 circuit court papers and 478 magistrate papers. There were also 79 mental hygiene orders issued.
The sheriff’s office also investigated 168 traffic accidents.
Also, Koontz explained that the department’s last two qualifications for firearms were held at the new pistol range at the Pine Grove Sportsman’s Club, which the commission helped to fund.
“It’s a nice range. It’s nice to be able to go out and shoot. There is gravel and concrete as well as nice backstops for the targets. It’s money well spent,” Koontz stated.
Koontz said the department’s trainings and certifications have been kept up to date. The department has also taken on additional training that “is above and beyond.”
Overall, the officers were involved in 369 hours of training in 2015, excluding the two new deputies.
“Deputies Bickerstaff and Daniels both graduated from the state police academy. The received 832 hours of training each,” Koontz explained.
Koontz explained that in late 2014, Deputy Spragg underwent active-shooter training and was trained to be an instructor for the curriculum. The sheriff’s office then organized an active-shooter training for deputies that involved the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office, New Martinsville Police Department, and Paden City Police Department.
“That was eight hours of our training that we received last year. That training can be used in many different scenarios. It’s called active-shooter training, but it’s also good if we have to enter a building, or if we go on an alarm call . . . It’s nice to see all those other agencies attend the training and train with us. Oftentimes, if we get a call that involves an active-shooter, we’d be responding together.”
According to Koontz, the sheriff’s office has Prevention Resource Officers in three of the high schools, thanks to the Wetzel County Board of Education, Wetzel County Commission, and cooperation of the sheriff’s office.
“I think it was a big step everyone was glad to see,” Koontz noted.
Deputy Donald Bordenkircher, PRO at Valley High School, also conducted an ALICE Training last year. “That completed the staff training at all the schools,” Koontz stated. “All teachers have been trained, so they can understand it and will be able to help the children if something occurs.”
Furthermore, the sheriff’s office also continued with its “addiction awareness trainings,” in which Koontz, along with drug court attendees, visit the local high school.
“I’d like to thank Jennifer Call and Judge (David) Hummel for helping to make that possible,” Koontz explained.
“Jennifer is the probation officer and runs the drug court, and Judge Hummel is in charge of that also. This seems to be a very good program, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback. It’s the second year we’ve done presentations. To have a whole auditorium of high school kids paying attention . . . it’s kind of rare.”
Further school involvement includes a mock-accident the sheriff’s department participates in during prom season.
“It was a DUI-type of simulation in which the fire department and sheriff’s department and EMS all participated in. Students at the high school got to observe that and interact with it, as well as see what an accident could entail,” Koontz explained of the set-up that Deputy Spragg participated in at Hundred High School.
Deputy Donald Bordenkircher also, once again, helped to organize Valley High School’s trip to Pochahontas County.
Koontz noted that Bordenkircher has already begun planning for this year’s trip, which last year included several deputies as chaperones.
“They went on their own time,” Koontz explained. “It wasn’t anything that they were paid to do.”
Furthermore, the sheriff’s office, in cooperation with the Wetzel County Coalition Against Drug Abuse, held its second annual summer picnic. Approximately 250 kids were in attendance at the event.
“We are grateful to the sponsors and businesses that helped, along with the commission that helped with the funding,” Koontz said.
For the second year the sheriff’s office put out a calendar. Proceeds from the calendar have went toward the annual summer picnic.
Koontz said Deputy Randy Adams conducted a safe winter driving talk with ArtsLink during Winter 2015. “He talked about wintertime safety tips and how to care for your vehicle in the winter and be safe during winter driving.
Koontz said Deputy Bickerstaff, and himself, helped with the boy scout’s camporee in October. The deputies provided information on fingerprinting. Koontz said one of the scouts’ merit badges dealt with finger printing.
“We fingerprinted any child present, whether boyscouts or siblings. If the parents wanted their children fingerprinted, we did it.”
Koontz said the records were given to the parents, who were advised to keep them in a safety deposit box with a picture of their child.
The sheriff’s department also came into some new equipment last year.
Koontz said new bulletproof vests were purchased for all deputies, including the court officer.
Koontz said the departments’ former vests were over five years old, and it is recommended that vests be replaced every five years.
Furthermore, a joint grant was written for interoperable radio systems. All radios in all patrol vehicles were replaced. The new systems allow deputies to make contact with local dispatchers from further distances.
The sheriff’s office also received a grant for new in-car camera systems. The new in-car cameras were placed in all the sheriff’s department’s vehicles. Koontz stated that one of the older systems was donated to Hundred Police Department.
Two of the department’s cruisers have been donated to Paden City Police Department.
The sheriff’s department has also received $14,000 Governor’s Highway Safety grant funding. This funding helps to pay for overtime spent while patrolling for seatbelt, stop sign, and stop light violations, as well as distracted driving.
Further sources of funding include donations that were received.
Koontz explained that $1,000, donated by EQT, will be used to help purchase off-duty weapons for deputies.
Koontz said it is preferable that deputies carry a weapon when not working. However, the deputy weapon is bulky to carry. “We have purchased and issued weapons and holsters, and the deputies have been trained,” Koontz explained.
Koontz said the donation did not cover the full cost for the off-deputy weapons, but “it was used toward the cost.” The department also have six older weapons that were traded in on the off-deputy weapons, “which helped to absorb the cost.”
Dominion Resources also donated $1,000 to the sheriff’s department, which will be used toward the summer picnic in June.
Four vehicles were replaced in 2015. The sheriff’s office has managed to put two Chevy Tahoes and Two Dodge Durangos on the road. One of the Durangos has replaced one of the K-9 Units. “Our existing K-9 unit didn’t want to go very well,” Koontz remarked.
It was noted that the sheriff’s department might donate one of their replaced vehicles to Folsom Fire Department, as the fire department had expressed an interest in the older vehicle.
Koontz said the deputies have appreciated the newer vehicles.
Koontz said the Office of Emergency Services purchased a John Deere Gator for the department to use in remote areas of the county. “It’s been fairly helpful so far. We’ve used it in a few instances,” Koontz explained.
“We used it Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. We always had a lot of problems with ATV-related incidents and accidents. We’ve used hte gator for both of those occasions in the past year, and it’s been very handy.”
Koontz credited Deputy Mike Neff with being very helpful with the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend patrols. “ATVs are a personal interest of his, so he enjoys the patrols,” Koontz explained.
The sheriff’s department also recently has had a garage constructed and finished to store its gators and ATVs. An added benefit, Koontz explained, is added space for evidence that might need stored indoors.
Koontz said Deputy Hayes has been satisfied with his new Dodge Durango. “The Durangos run good and ride nice and handle good. The ground clearance is better than the Fords,” Koontz explained, adding “If reliability stays that way, it might be something we gravitate toward.”
Commission President Larry Lemon inquired as to how the recent meth lab training went for the sheriff’s office.
Koontz said Deputies Spragg and Neff were impressed with the training, as Spragg had said the training was thee best he has attended.
“They highly recommend we send a couple of other guys,” Koontz explained.
Commissioner Mason said he wanted to compliment for the sheriff’s department for getting out into the community, citing the boy scouts’ program the deputies had attended.
“We try to do as many of those types of programs as we can,” Koontz replied, adding that the department was planning on taking a few drug court attendees to an addiction awareness program at a local church.